Updated: Apr 19
There are a few reasons why you might want to seed start. We grow on a small scale, five 25' x 4' beds. Our beds are usually full so its important for us to have mature plants ready to go when we are ready to pull flowers out. Certain types of cut flowers prefer to be transplanted rather than directly seeded into the soil as well. In February we seed start and transplant in April. Beginning of May we seed start and transplant in June. In September we start seeds that will be planted in November to be over wintered aka "cool flowers".
You're going to need:
- Cell tray (ours is 128, the number of holes in the tray)
- Bottom tray for watering
- Top plastic dome
- Tooth pick
- Label maker
- Hose or watering can
We use 128 trays which seem to be standard. We don't normally fill an entire tray with the same flower or variety so we cut our cell trays in half to keep them separate. Larger tray sizes can be used (next one up is 72 cell) just note you will be using more soil. These trays allow them to grow to the perfect size for transplanting. You can purchase everything you need at Johnny's seeds or Amazon. We used Johnny's seeds. We get seed starting soil bags from Home Depot, and recently switched from those white tags in the photo to a label maker to mark the sides of the trays.
1. Fill tray with soil and wet
Take your cell tray and fill with soil. Make sure the squares are full with no air pockets. Then either use a hose or watering can to wet the soil completely. It is better to wet the soil before rather than after so you do not potentially wash away seeds.
We pour our seed packs into tiny dishes so they are easier to pick up. Some seeds get unbelievably small so it is hard to grab inside the packet. Before sowing, look up each flower to see if the seed needs to be covered lightly or laid right on top.
When sowing, always place 2 seeds in each cell. This helps with germination rate. If both seeds germinate as they grow you can either pick out the smaller weaker seedling (called thinning) or wait until you are ready to plant outside and pull apart the two and plant them both. Once you are done sowing all your seeds, sprinkle vermiculite on top of all trays.
Tip: For the smaller seeds, use a toothpick to grab the seeds by wetting the tip with water. Also have a spoon for your peanuts because your hands will be dirty.
3. Label tray with variety, color and date
We now use a label maker to mark the trays, it makes it easier to keep track especially when using two half trays and it is easy to place a new label right over top next time.
4. Set trays in seed starting station
Take either two half trays or one full tray and place in the larger bottom tray. Then place the plastic dome on top. The bottom tray is how you will be watering your seedlings. Check your seedlings every day to make sure they stay moist.
Once the soil dries out, fill the bottom tray with one inch of water. Your plants will bottom feed and soak up the water from there.
Once you place your plastic dome on germination will begin! Have your lights set up to a timer. We have ours set to be on 6am - 9pm. This is to mimic natural daylight and nighttime. Once they have germinated, take the dome off and bring the lights down as close to the seedlings as possible. As they grow raise the light as needed. You will notice the seedlings reaching towards the light, adjust and rotate trays as needed as well.