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Seed Starting

Updated: Mar 25, 2020

We have started Kale (on the left) and Cucumber (on the right) seedlings! We hope that these will eventually be transplanted into our garden on Governors Island.

We are using a grow light for these #seedlings but you can try this at home without a grow light. All you need is potting soil, a seedling tray (or somewhere to put the dirt - other ideas below), seeds, and a warm, sunny spot. Water your seedlings just enough to keep the soil moist, not too wet or too dry. We like to water seedlings once daily until the water drips through the bottom of the tray. Follow our #seedstarting guide below!

Seed Starting Guide

You will need some potting soil to start your seeds. Potting soil is light and fluffy which makes it easy for germinating seeds to push through the surface. No pots, no problem! Here are just a few common household items you can use in place of pots for seedlings:

  • Plastic takeout containers with lids as domes

  • TP rolls cut in half

  • Egg cartons

  • Plastic cups

  • Aluminum cans

  • 5 gallon buckets

  • Yogurt containers or other plastic food containers - repurpose the lid as a tray for catching water.

Just poke a few drainage holes in the bottom, fill with soil, and you are ready to plant!

Loosely fill your container with moist potting soil - don’t pack it down or the seeds may struggle to push through. Use your finger or a pencil to put small indentations for each seed. Seeds should be planted at a depth approximately twice the diameter of the seed.

Place 1-2 seeds in each space and gently cover with soil.

Water the container with a watering can until water drips from the bottom. No watering can? No problem! Use a needle to poke some holes in the top of a plastic jug or water bottle.

Seeds use stored energy to germinate, which means most of them don’t require light until after germination when they photosynthesize. There are a few flower seeds that need light to germinate, so make sure you read your seed packet for instructions. For most larger seeds like vegetables, try keeping seeds in the warmest part of your home until they emerge from the soil, then move them to a sunny window or under a lamp. Plastic domes also help keep the soil moist, so they are useful but not necessary, and they should always be removed as soon as you see some germination!

Tip: If the top of your fridge or freezer gets some sunshine, this is a great warm place to put seedlings.

Tip: Place seedlings in a metal tin or line a cardboard box with tinfoil. The refracted light will warm the soil. You can also make a tinfoil curtain by wrapping a piece of cardboard in foil and placing it facing the window to reflect light back onto the seedlings.

“Days to germination” – some seeds take a few days to germinate, others can take a few weeks. Some seed packets indicate “days to germination” on the packet. It’s important to write the date that you sowed the seeds on your container so you can decide when you have poor germination and need to re-sow.

Are you growing anything at home? Let us know in the comments!

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