Updated: Feb 27
Part 1: Preparation and Supplies
This blog post is intended for the home gardener.
Starting seeds can be intimidating, but it is a rewarding process and can give you a jumpstart on the season. Here in our area (Siskiyou County, CA) we have a very SHORT growing season compared to others. We can expect our last frost around mid-May and our first frost around the end of September through mid-October.
One way we can achieve blooms sooner and extend our growing season is by starting seeds indoors, especially hardy annual seeds.
Hardy Annuals: live for one year and survive cold temperatures. Many can be planted in the fall, over-wintered, and produce blooms in the spring. The flowers prefer growing in cooler conditions.
A great extended resource for growing hardy annuals is the book Cool Flowers by Lisa Mason Ziegler.
Step 1: ZONE & FROST DATES
The first step to starting seeds is finding your zone and last frost date. You can find those at:
For now, we will be focusing on early spring planting. The optimal time for transplanting spring plants is 6-8 weeks before your last frost date, or when plants have their 3rd set of leaves.
Step 2: CHOOSING YOUR SEEDS
A few suppliers we love:
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds – Free shipping, no minimum!
Floret Flowers – not the best bang for your buck, but beautiful varieties. They also sell out quickly.
It is best to source your seeds in the fall, as many varieties are sold out by spring.
Step 3: SUPPLIES
Trays: There are many different types of containers that can be used for starting flower seeds indoors. Some examples include:
Plastics cell trays or pots in various sizes. A good beginner set can be found here
Recycled plastic fruit clamshells such as those used for strawberries (make sure they have drain holes)
A good rule of thumb for deciding which tray is appropriate is to look at the seed size. If it is a larger seed, you will need to start them in larger celled trays.
If you plan to buy large quantities of supplies, Growers Supply is a great, reasonably priced website.
I do not recommend peat pots. They wick away moisture from the soil, are prone to mold, and do not decompose well once planted outside.
Soil: When you are starting seeds, you want the medium to be light and fluffy with lots of perlite.
Some of out favorites:
Sungro Propogation Mix #3 or #5
The most important thing is that it does not have large chunks of material in it – as those can trap seeds and prevent them from sprouting.
Do not use your garden soil to start your seeds indoors. Your starting mix should be sterile, which will help reduce the risk of any pathogens.
Heat Mats & Lights: Most seeds require a specific soil temperature (~60°F) and minimum light hours to germinate (~14-16 hours). Consult the back of your seed packet for specifics.
Lights – two T8 shop lights work just as well and are less expensive than most “grow lights.”
If you start seeds indoors, you may be able to get away without these items if your house is warm with good window lighting.
Extra Handy Supplies:
Click here for a complete list of supplies from Amazon
Alright, now go find some flower seeds that get you excited, gather the rest of your seeds starting supplies and meet us back here for part 2 of our seed starting series!
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