Why & How To Raise Babies... Baby Plants That Is!
The benefits & how to of growing your own seedlings.
Admittedly, I know nothing about raising babies, but I do know a thing or two about raising baby plants.
Now, you may be wondering why someone would grow their own seedlings vs. buying them pre-grown and ready to take home at a garden center.
And you may also be wondering whether or not this is something you can do…I’d like to tell you that you can and why you should!
Back when we first purchased our property, we built a modest vegetable garden bed but I soon discovered that I felt restricted by the small space, and, to my husband’s chagrin, wanted something bigger. After a wee bit of convincing, our modest vegetable bed grew to a fabulous 30ft x 30ft plot with 15 raised beds.
Having given myself free reign to build an ambitious garden that would house A LOT of plants, I was shocked to discover the cost of purchasing enough mature plants to fill our 15 beds. To put this in perspective, you can buy a single mature vegetable plant for $5-$10, or a cell pack of 6 for $3-$5 (depending on the size and variety) versus a packet of seeds for $2-$6 which can contain hundreds of seeds.
When you translate this into a single bed of tomato plants, it means the difference between spending $100 for ten mature plants or $5 for a pack of seeds to grow yourself.
The choice seemed clear…starting with seeds was the only way to go. So I began to research how to grow my own seedlings and over the years have reaped the many benefits of doing so.
Curious? Read on.
The Benefits of Growing Your Own Seedlings:
1. You save money!
As you now know, there is a premium to pay for mature vegetable plants because the greenhouse has done all the work of raising the plants and needs to turn a profit. It is worth noting that if you end up growing more plants than you can fit on a sunny windowsill, you will need to invest in grow lights and a shelving unit. The good news is that they will pay for themselves in short order if you intend to continue to grow your own plants.
2. Variety Spices Up Your Life!
Greenhouses typically grow limited varieties based on popularity and hardiness (def; easy to grow & survive). By purchasing your own seeds, you will open up a world of limitless possibilities. Purple tomatoes? Yup! Pink carrots? Definitely! Funky, warty squashes? You bet!
3. Giving Life to Plants!
It is hard to describe the joy and sense of accomplishment I feel when I see a miniscule seed turn into an itty-bitty sprout, which then blossoms into a flowering plant that will eventually provide me with food to nourish my body. Seeing mother nature in action and knowing that I played a role in giving life to earth’s bounty is a great feeling. I promise you that you will feel it too.
4. The Joy of Learning
With every success, I learn. With every failure, I learn. These lessons in nurturing and cultivating my own food have given me great joy and unearthed my desire to continue to get my hands dirty with every new growing season!
Supplies Needed To Grow Your Own Plants:
1. Growing container
There are a lot of options available, here are a few ideas; Cell pods (found at garden centers, dollar stores, home deport, etc.), egg shells, egg Cartons, DIY newspaper cups, yogurt containers, plastic cups, etc. Up-cycling & re-using is encouraged!
Ideally, you should purchase a soil formulated for growing seedlings, which contains minimal nutrients because they are not necessary for starting seedlings and can be applied later.
3. Germinating Covers
These are clear covers that create a mini-greenhouse for your seeds, which require heat & moisture to germinate (ie. sprout). There are many options; plastic domes (found at garden center, dollar store, home depot, et), saran wrap, plastic lettuce container, plastic berry container, etc.
This will hold your seedling containers and will need to be waterproof.
Whatever you want to grow! I suggest buying organic and recommend that you select vegetables that grow best in your climate…for example I can try my hardest to grow pineapples in Ontario but the chances of success are not great.
6. A Warm Spot
Seeds need heat to germinate. In addition to the heat generated by the germinating cover, they need to be placed in a warm spot or you can purchase heating mats specifically for warming freshly planted seeds.
7. Light Source
Once the seeds have germinated, you will need light to help them grow. This can be in the form of a sunny windowsill or you can purchase Grow Lights specifically designed to for plants.
How To Grow Your Own Seedlings:
1. Pre-soak your soil the night before planting.
Seeds need heat & moisture to germinate. I find pre-soaking the soil helps to start the plants a little quicker and prevents the soil from drying. The alternative is to simply mist your soil & seed after planting.
2. Place soil in the desired soil container.
Try not to compact it too much, the roots need to be able to penetrate through the soil and pull nutrients from the air pockets in the soil. Here I have chosen to use three different methods to start my seeds; Cell packs, Egg Shells (the calcium will leach from the shell into the soil which is good for the plant), and DIY Newspaper Cups.
3. Place seeds on soil.
I will typically drop 2-3 seeds per cell and then lightly pat the seed to ensure it makes contact with the soil.
4. Top the seeds with a little bit of soil.
The rule is to plant the seed as deep as it is big (likely no deeper than 1 cm). I sprinkle a little bit of soil and then pat it down gently to ensure the seed has made contact and is adequately covered. Don't forget to label the cells, I use popsicle sticks.
5. Cover the seeds & place in warm spot.
Use your germinating cover of choice, place the containers in the tray and set in a warm spot in your home. I have purchased heating mats which helps speed up the process.
6. Patiently wait for your little babies to sprout!
Once the majority have sprouted, remove the cover and place in a sunny spot or under grow lights.
8. Water regularly.
Seedlings are delicate, do not let them dry out but do not over water…this requires experimentation and learning but don’t be afraid…give it a try!
Before planting outside, you need to allow your plants to get acclimatized to outdoor weather. You do so by “hardening off” your plants, which simply means placing them outside for a couple hours a day in a sunny spot, sheltered from the elements. After one week of hardening off and ensuring you are following the directions on the seed packet (i.e. whether to plant outdoors pre or post frost), transplant them outdoors.
10. Monitor, water, feed and enjoy!
Please note there are many, many ways to start seeds and this is what I have found works best for me but you may find something that works better for you. The most important part is to try, learn and enjoy!
Should you have any questions, I am more than happy to help, if I can! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on instagram at @theladybirdlanding.
Grow Happy My Friends!