There are two things that make me believe in God. One is building a compost pile and watching banana peels and leaves transform into soil. The other is starting something — anything — from seed. It never ceases to blow my mind that something small and hard can be buried and watered then sprout green a week later. Crazy.
Intimidating as it seems to be for so many people, starting plants from seed simply isn’t that hard. So long as you can commit to keeping the soil moist through germination (as in, don’t go on vacation the day after you put seeds in the ground), you’re good. (For information on choosing seeds, check out my earlier post.)
Is the same true for pot? A lot of people have tried to convince me the answer is no. I’m told repeatedly that I need some combination of the following: heating pads, grow lights, purified water and rockwool. I’m also told I’d need to scuff up the seeds or pre-sprout them in a wet paper towel.
“People way over-complicate this,” says Nat Pennington, founder of Humboldt Seed Company, who assures me this doesn’t have to be so hard.
I’m apt to trust him. I am a lazy gardener. Another way to put this: I believe in plants, especially ones called weed. Also, I’m not trying to get the biggest crop. My livelihood doesn’t depend on this. I just want to grow a cool new plant.
So I’m following Nat’s instructions (see Takeaway below) and keeping this as simple as possible.
And sure enough, within five days, 50 seedlings have sprouted. Which is sort of unfortunate, considering it’s only legal for me to have 6 seedlings. Even after I cull the males — up to half the crop — I’m still way over. Anyone want some seedlings?
Takeaway: The laziest way to start seeds
• For an optimal outdoor grow, start seeds in February or March.
• Soak seeds for 24 hours. Note: This isn’t even a crucial step, but it can speed things up by a few days, and if you’re like me, you’re excited.
• A good rule of thumb that translates to all seeds: Bury them twice as deep as the seed is wide.
• Pot seeds into four-inch or gallon-sized containers filled with fresh potting soil. Moveable containers allow you to keep them in full sun. For example, my seedlings’ eventual home in a raised bed doesn’t get full sun for a few more months.
• Windowsills are ok for a few weeks, but full sun and fresh air are most conducive to healthy growth.
• Keep the soil moist through germination. This isn’t rocket science. Just shower them with water once a day, less if the weather is cold and the soil is staying wet.
• If possible, make conditions a little warmer and safer for the seedlings. It can be as simple as a draping of floating row cover or homemade milk carton cloches. I splurged and bought myself a greenhouse for under $35. Keeping seeds covered also ensure that birds, slugs, and any other small creatures will leave them alone.
Floating row covers will keep your babies safe and warm.
Check out these DIY milk carton cloches.
This inexpensive greenhouse is perfect for the beginner.