We all know that Colorado’s weather can be a bit temperamental, and for gardeners this can make it difficult to know when to start planting! If your green thumb is itching to get started, however, consider growing your garden from seeds this year. Not only are seeds cheaper than buying seedlings, it can feel very rewarding to harvest from a plant that you raised from a seed. Seed starting takes place indoors, 6-8 weeks before the last frost of the season. If you’re a first-time seed-starter, consider planting tomatoes or basil. These plants tend to be a little more forgiving to newbies. Then, follow these steps to bring your plants from seed to garden-ready!
- Fill a pot with seed mix soil. Avoid potting soil since it is very rich and doesn’t drain easily for seedlings. It’s best to use fresh seed mix soil because soil pulled from the garden or a houseplant can contain diseases that can hurt your seeds.
- Moisten your planting mix so that they do not float to the top of the container. Don’t soak them, but you do want them to be moist. Pack them into the soil firmly. The seed packet should tell you how deep to plant the seeds in the soil, but generally plant them two times as deep as the seed is wide.
- If you’d like, you can cover your plants loosely with plastic to increase humidity. The seeds should sprout at a temperature between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Water your plants about an inch per week. If possible, water from the bottom. This can keep the surface soil dry, helping to combat diseases.
- After you see your first plants begin to sprout leaves, keep a fan lightly blowing on them and then place the pot underneath a light system to keep them warm. While it is possible to grow seeds in the windowsill, the sunlight is not as intense during the spring. The days are also shorter, making it difficult for your seeds to soak up enough light. Most seedlings do best with 14-16 hours of light per day.
- Once winter has ended and the temperatures outside have risen, your plants should be safe outdoors! Before transplanting, take your plants outside for a few hours of real weather to harden them off. This helps the plants to adjust to harsher conditions. After a week or so of hardening off, transfer your plant very carefully to the garden so as not to disturb their root system.
Good luck with your seed starting adventure! If you need any equipment or general guidance, the friendly staff at Ace Hardware of Fort Collins would be more than happy to point you in the right direction.