Gardening withdrawals? Begin seeds indoors

Gardening withdrawals? Start seeds indoors

You don’t have to suffer from garden deprivation. Start with the seeds indoors before the outdoor growing season begins.Photo ofJ GargetfromPixabayYou don’t have to suffer from withdrawal symptoms from gardening. Start seeding indoors before the outdoor growing season begins. Photo by J Garget from Pixabay

K-State Research and Extension News Service

MANHATTAN — Temperatures are cold, snow is on the ground and gardeners are stuck indoors. Luckily, planting seeds indoors is a great kickstart for the spring garden.

“Get your seeds from a reputable source, including garden centers and seed catalogs,” said Kansas State University horticulture expert Ward Upham. “If you choose seed from a company that doesn’t specialize in plants, pay close attention to the packing date to ensure the seed has been packed for the current year. Although most seeds remain viable for about three years, germination decreases as seeds age.”

Upham said there are two pieces of information that need to be known to determine the seed transplant date: the target date for outdoor transplanting and the number of weeks it will take to grow the transplant. The January 4th K-State Horticulture Newsletter includes a chart to help gardeners understand these schedules.

“Don’t use garden soil to germinate seeds as it’s too heavy and can harbor pathogens. Use medium made specifically for seed germination,” Upham said.

Seeds need to be kept moist to germinate, Upham added. He recommends using a clear plastic sheet over the container to trap moisture and reduce the amount of watering. Remove the packaging when the seedlings emerge.

“All plants require sufficient amounts of light after emergence. South-facing windows may not provide sufficient volume, so fluorescent or LED lights are often used,” Upham said.

Upham suggested hanging fluorescent lights 2-4 inches above the top of the plants. LED lights are more variable, so be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Regardless of the type of light you use, keep the light on for 16 hours each day, he said.

“The best temperature for germination is often higher than what we find in our homes, especially since evaporating moisture can cool the germination medium,” Upham said.

He recommends placing containers closer to the ceiling or using a heating mat.

“Once the plants have sprouted, they can be grown in a cooler temperature (65-70 degrees during the day and 55-60 degrees at night),” Upham said.

Upham and his colleagues at K-State’s Department of Horticulture and Natural Resources publish a weekly horticultural newsletter with tips on caring for home landscapes and gardens. The newsletter is available online or can be emailed each week.

Interested individuals can also send their gardening and farm questions to Upham at [email protected]or contact your local K-State Research and Extension office.