Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors, by Larry Leishman

Larry Leishman
Guest Speaker at Orientation, Feb. 21, 2009

On your internet browser (Yahoo, Google, etc), type in:
Starting vegetable seeds indoors
USU extension recommended vegetable varieties for Utah
Master gardener manual
Note: .com websites often have good information, but they also want to sell you something.

Helpful hints:

1. Don’t start your seeds too early. They will outgrow the pot and be long and spindly and start to die. Average last day of frost in Salt Lake is May 15th. Note the word “average.” Take May 15th, notice on the seed packet how long until germination (10 days, 18 days, etc.) Add 6 more weeks for growth indoors. For example: Celebrity tomato seeds take 14-18 days to germinate (although, under ideal conditions, my seeds have germinated in 5-7 days). Add 6 more weeks for plant growth (the stem of the tomato plant should be about the size of a pencil when transplanting) and you have about 8 weeks. Count 8 weeks back from May 15th and then plant the seeds.

2. Use seeds from a reputable seed company packaged for this year.

3. Use only new starter seed sterilized mix to put into your starter pots. Throw last year’s soil mix in the garden.

4. Be sure you have good drainage in the containers you use.

5. After putting the soil in the small containers, soak the container in a large pan (like a tub or cookie sheet) overnight.

6. Be sure to plant vegetable varieties that are recommended for our area.

7. Plant 1 or 2 seeds per container and don’t plant them too deep. Follow the directions exactly on the package.

8. Do NOT put fertilizer on the soil.

9. Be sure to have plant name tags in each container. Popsicle sticks work well or plastic tags. Put name (tomato) and variety (Celebrity) by each one. Use a “Sharpie” marker on plastic.

10. Place plastic wrap over the containers until the seed sprouts, then remove the wrap completely.

11. Make sure the soil stays moist until the seed germinates. Spray the soil with a clean water spray bottle until the plants are growing well. After that, carefully water with a soft stream of water. NEVER let your plants dry out. They will seldom recover from the shock.

12. If you have a water softener, get your water from a source that does not go through the water softener, as there is always a salt residue that could hurt the plant.

13. If using fluorescent lights, keep the lights on 24 hours a day and within 2 inches from the pots, until the seeds germinate.

14. After the plants start to grow well, keep the fluorescent lights on about 18 hours a day (leaving 6 hours for darkness). A timer works well.

15. About 2 weeks before transplanting, you will want to start hardeneing them off by putting them outside for 2-3 hours a day in full sun and then bringing them back in. Then put them in sun for 2-3 hours and then in the shade for a few more hours and them bring them back in. By the second week you can leave them out all day and night provided it doesn't freeze. Your goal for the last 2 weeks is the get the plants ready to be transplanted out into the garden without shocking them with a sudden move. They need to get used to being outside, and you don't want them to sunburn, windburn, or freeze.

16. Become an expert yourself. Become self reliant. The internet is an excellent tool to learn all you can about how to start your own seeds and have a successful garden. Ask other people you know the questions you have. It doesn’t take a lot of time. The KSL Greenhouse is on every Saturday from 8-11 a.m. with USU Horticulturist Larry Sagers. If you aren’t able to listen to the program, you can go on the KSL website under “podcasts” and then “KSL Greenhouse” and download any of the recent programs you want to year on your Ipod or MP3 player.