Episode-616- The How, Why and What of Starting Plants from Seed

Photo Credit to Chiot’s Run

I have gotten a lot of questions from people who are looking to start plants from seeds vs. buying plants at the nursery.

Many people struggle with seed starting for a variety of reasons so I am dedicating most of today’s show to help you master the skill of taking tiny seeds and turning them into food and medicine producing plants.

Today’s show competes sort of an informal weekly series on Monday we discusses the dangers of GMOs and the differences between GMO, Hybrid, Open Pollinated and Heirloom varieties.  Then on Tuesday we covered saving seeds for sustainability, today we complete the series but discussing how to get those seeds up and off to a good start for a successful gardening season.

Join me today as we discuss…

  • Understanding how seeds germinate in the wild (this answers so many questions)
  • What are the needs of a seed
  • Cube, pots, paper and peat
  • Why starting indoors is a good idea
  • You need light, window light generally won’t cut it
  • Building a simple grow light
  • Mist watering and watering from the bottom
  • Creating constant temperatures
  • Culling and “pricking out”
  • Starting seeds in pots that are generally considered “direct sow”
  • Seeds that should almost always be direct sowed
  • Hardening off seeds
  • Potting up the why and how
  • Holding back in ground planting until you are sure
  • Mulch is your friend

Additional Resources for Today’s Show

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17 Responses to Episode-616- The How, Why and What of Starting Plants from Seed

  1. Again, lots of information to process and put into action. I’ve been intending to start a Garden for 4 years, and this is my deadline year. I’m going to try and focus on getting SOMETHING to grow, while looking towards building my property up to be more productive as the years go by.

    To be honest, I’m a bit overwhelmed by the whole process, given that there is a lot to know, but I’ve got to get started. The regular tips and advice from TSP are going to be a valuable resource for me.

    The point about producing 10% then perhaps 15%, 20% etc is such a wonderful goal. Imagine how many potential disasters could be averted if everyone was able to do this.

  2. David McNair

    I have always had the prepper mindset, however, garding was a foriegn subject to me. This year I have built 3 raised bed and I am just nor sure what/when/how to plant crops. I know we need soil sun and water, but the rest is a mystery.

  3. Another great show! I just wanted to put out there that for the past 8 years we have not done any seed starting. Busy lives get in the way. We have either directly sowed the seeds like corn and beans but for everything else we have had great luck with buying plants from our local nursery/Farmers Co-op. One year we had some plants die and they replaced them free of charge. 🙂 So, if your a newbie to gardening this would be a great way of getting in on the fun of growing your own food.

  4. Jack says you need full spectrum uv plant lights to plant seeds, but I’ve been starting seeds for years with regular, 4-foot fluorescent bulbs with no problems. The important thing is to keep the plants really close to the lights, almost touching them. Also, you want to use new tubes every year, because the amount of light they provide diminishes with time.

    Also, to gently water little seedlings in delicate soil cubes, all you need to do is take a plastic pop bottle and drill a hole in the cap to the size that you want.

    I love listening to Jack talk gardening. Great show.

  5. Modern Survival

    @Ed all tube florescents have a full spectrum not as good as ones made for this use but a full spectrum of wavelengths none the less. I just don’t know why you wouldn’t use grow lights though they work better and barely cost a penny more, you also don’t have to cook your seeds to get them to grow.

  6. A couple more ideas:
    If you want to make your own soil cubes you can. Just take any plastic 6-pack that you probably have saved from buying plants from a nursery in the past. Get some seed-starting mix good and wet and pack the soil into the 6-pack. Pop out your soil cubes and gently make a little indentation for the seed and you’re good to go. The only downside of soil cubes are that they need to be watered gently and frequently.

    Another little tip that I have not yet tried but will this year, is to save some of your highest quality compost and bring it in in the fall so it doesn’t freeze. Then in the late winter or spring, you can use this for seed starting and you won’t need to buy any professional seed starting mix.

    About the mulching thing, I agree that mulching is a great tool, but like any gardening practice it has upsides and downsides. If you are dealing with cool soil, excessive moisture, or even slug problems, mulch may not be a good idea.

  7. Nice show.

    You got me into this 2 years ago, “thank you”.

    A new seed starting item I am trying this year are the polystyrene “speedling” trays from Peaceful Valley. They have pyramid shaped growing cavities with an open bottom. Something about air pruning roots as with cubes…
    So far so good but it is very early yet.

  8. Perfect timing. My soil cube and seeds from High Mowing should be delivered next week. This will be my first attempt at starting from seed.

  9. Just one more thought:
    You can sometimes increase the amount of light you get from a window by building a simple reflector (cardboard and aluminum foil). In a good sunny window, this extra light may make it possible to grow small seedlings. Don’t try to sprout seeds by a window (too hot on a sunny day and sometimes to cool at night), you’ll get much better results in anyplace that stays around 75 degrees all the time…just get your plants into the light as soon as they sprout. You may need to leave the window open a crack to keep the heat down.

  10. RE: Podcast discussion about municipal sewage used for compost …

    In addition to the presence of pesticides in sewage water, it has been discovered during the past 5 years that any and all drugs that people imbibe yet don’t completely absorb also linger in our sewage. So using municipal sewage as compost (or reprocessing sewage back into municipal drinking water) is inadvertently contaminating your garden (or your tap water) with a vast spectrum of pharmaceuticals, including psychotropic drugs such as Prozac, Ritalin and Zoloft.

    And this is all the more reason to get your own place in the country with a well or spring that you control.

  11. Jack, Thanks for the tip about tall spindly sprouts. I have my tomatoes (Roma and Cherokee Purple) started in pots by the window. I was one of those that was looking at them everyday “so proud of myself” for growing these little tomato plants to 3-4″ tall with 2 leaves on them. I have since added more soil to help support them watered them lightly and am moving them out into the unfiltered sunlight. Hopefully that saved them. Thanks again.

  12. An oscillating fan is a helpful source of indoor ‘wind’ to help prepare young seedlings for true wind exposures outdoors.

    If you have the time, I highly recommend perusing the gardening section of the TSP Forum.

  13. Oil Lady,
    Its far worse then just the drugs that people excreat.Drugs by the thousands are being flushed every week,I know cause it my job to do that!At nursing homes in New York state require the facilitys to keep and destroy (flush)any meds that are covered by medicare D or a third party insurance plan.That is thousands of meds a month in a 200 bed nursing home! Meds that are paid for by medicare part A, private pay or medicaide can be returned to the pharmcy and redistrubited. These meds are all in tamper prof blister packs and are always in the hands of nurses.
    So everymonth I flush away lasix,prilosec,coumadin,tegretal,all kinds of psyc meds.Everything you can think of.These meds are delivered in 30 pill blister packs and the patient gets a 30 day supply so they may have 300 dilantin caps etc.Then the Dr comes in and changes the dose ,all those meds are destroyed and new ones ordered! Psyck meds are often cheanged sometime every week or two.They require a lot of adjusting to get the best patient responce.
    Narcotics are even worse EVERY narc has to be destroyed on site.That is a lot of morphine,narco,percoset,ativan all sleeping pills,pain pills and anxity meds.They can never be returned.
    I know this is the way it is done in NY state,your state maybe different.You can call your state narcotic bureo and ask them how unused meds in nursing homes are handles, you can call a nursing home find out where they get there drugs from and call thay pharmacy and ask them how they handle returned meds if they take them.
    All states will have different laws for how they handle meds that are dcd or changed in nursing homes. But EVERY state has to destroy outdated meds.So have your water checked,have a well or use a good water filter.Never let babies drink city water,dont use for their formula, we buy distilled water.Its so much worse then just what people excreat!

  14. AHHHH ! Awful spelling and typo’s,sorry I just get so wild over this. I’ve tried for years to get something done about this with out any luck.I have pictures, copys etc but no one wants to change the status quo.

  15. Hi Jack,

    One other thing that goes a long way to preparing your plants for the outside is to run a small oscillating fan over them for a couple hours a day at the lowest setting. For plants with any kind of stem to them, this will make them grow thicker and hardier and more adapted to the outdoors where they will have to contend with wind. I have tried this with tomato plants and it does make them thicker and better suited to bear heavier fruit.

  16. So, im having a problem downloading this particular episode. It gets to 2.0 MB and stops, and says ” because the source file could not be read.”

    I tried on I tunes and it did the same thing. I haven’t had any trouble downloading any of the rest.

    Any ideas?

  17. Hey Jack,
    I know I’m a little late on this post but I am a little backed up on my TSP listing. I’m in the same boat you are… I too can’t put in a garden this year because we are moving (again) in the next couple months. I feel your pain… I’m working in the garden shop at a local big box store just so I can be close to “A Garden” and have some plants to tend to. This show actually made me feel better about not being able to put in a garden this year… beens our survival guru can’t, I don’t feel so bad that I can’t… I was pretty stressed about my lack of a garden this year and you eased that. I figure instead of the energy I would put in to a garden,(that I will have to leave behind) I’ll take advantage of the amazing produce others are growing around me (local farmers markets) & put my energy in to learning better to can, and I CAN take all that yummyness to our new home with me.
    Thanx again Jack!