Winter can be a long, gray season for a dedicated plant lover, but you don’t have to wait for spring to get started on next year’s garden. There is one sure-fire way to scratch your horticultural itch when the cold sets in: bring your planting indoors and start some seeds.
Of course, early autumn is a bit too soon to start seeds for spring. But creating a plan of action and gathering your materials now will set you up for success once it’s time to get growing.
Pick Out The Seeds
Many of us plant our gardens from starters purchased at the local garden center. And while there is nothing at all wrong with that, it can be equally rewarding to start your own from seed.
One good place to start is by browsing a seed and garden catalog, which is a secret joy for many garden lovers. With bright, attractive photos and enticing descriptions, a catalog is a great place to discover good seeds for your area and new gadgets that will spruce up your space.
Along with purchasing from a catalog, many home improvement stores and department stores carry seeds, especially as winter stretches further along. Most seed retailers also sell online. It’s as easy as finding what you want and clicking.
Gather Your Pots And Containers
When picking out your planting vessels for later in the winter, it can be a good idea to use small pots that will keep your seeds tidy and contained until ready for planting. Small, two-inch square pots made of flexible plastic are ideal and available at gardening and hardware stores.
When the time is right, you will want to set up your small pots in a secondary holder before planting. I save transparent one-pound salad containers and lids every time I get them from the grocery store. For me, eight of the small pots fit perfectly in one of these containers, but mixing and matching will help you find a good system. You just want something clear and with a lid.
Using a container also lets you pour water directly into the container instead of the pots, so you can water still-fragile seedlings and plants without washing them away. Once spring finally rolls around and it’s time to plant, it’s easy to take the whole setup outside and get started.
Get ‘Em Dirty
Consider stocking up on a seedling mix that will provide better results than regular potting mix. This is compost-rich soil that usually includes more peat, allowing it to hold moisture while providing better air movement.
You will need enough soil to fill your saved pots, leaving about half an inch at the top. Also consider that you will be using plenty of water, including the volume you will want to knead into your soil before filling your pots. Buy enough seeds that you can use two per pot once it’s time to plant.
A pro tip is to cover your seeds with a thin layer of vermiculite available at any gardening store, so be sure to have some on hand in time for planting. This mineral will improve airflow, retain moisture and help prevent rot, but will still be light enough for seedlings to push through.
A Little Help?
Not everyone who loves gardening has planted from seeds before, so if it will be your first time, be aware that starting plants inside quickly gobbles up available space. Plan for a little more room than you think you will need, and you will be glad you did.
In your planning stage, purchase seedling heat mats to put under the pots and containers. These are thin, flexible sheets that plug into a wall outlet and have a rheostat to adjust the temperature, and ensure your seeds have consistent warmth once the snow blows.
Providing enough light can also be challenging in the darkest months, so I recommend gathering artificial lights for consistency. LED shop lights are inexpensive, easy to set up and easy to adjust as your seedlings grow.
Finally, find some small fans that have low settings. Later in the winter, once your plants start to push up from the soil, it will be a good idea to remove the container lids and set the fans to circulating the air. This will help strengthen the seedling stems and root them deeper in the soil.
Indoor winter gardening may not replace the joys of a well-tended green space, but it will certainly brighten your home and satisfy your green thumb. Preparing now for winter planting can make it an easy, fun and inexpensive way to give you a head start on next year’s garden.
All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.
By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers
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