Starting Seeds Indoors

by Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on March 16, 2011

A great way to save money when planting a vegetable garden (or a flower garden for that matter) is to start some of your own seeds.

Seed Starting Tray

Photo by Rachel Ross

I started my own indoor seed starting adventures for the first time last year.  Prior to that I had either purchased seedlings locally or else just sown things that you didn’t need to start ahead-like lettuce and beans.  But last year I took the plunge and started my own.

Wouldn’t you know it, I had plenty of veggies and flowers not only for my own garden but to give away to friends.  Some of these seedlings were smaller than those hothouse grown specimens that you find at the store, but within a few weeks to a month they had caught up to the competition-and saved me a bundle in the process.

usa hardiness zone map

Photo by Oceandesetoiles

Before you jump in and get your hands in some dirt (or seed starting medium as the case may be) you need to know your region’s last frost date.  Then you need to look at the packets of the seeds you will be planing and find the  suggested time frame for starting each type of seed.

You won’t be able to just sow everything at once-some things will be started 9 weeks out, others a mere 2 weeks before planting out.  Mother Earth News has a handly little seed starting chart that will give you the basics-for more in depth info you can always call your local cooperative extension office.

Onion Seedlings under Lights

Photo by Suzy Morris

Although you don’t actually need light to sprout seeds, you do need it to grow plants. Personally I just use some inexpensive fluorescent lights I purchased at Lowes.  I suspend them using some S hooks on some chain (the kind you can buy for hanging plant pots) on a set of shelves in the basement.  The s hooks & chain enable me to raise & lower the lights to keep them close to the seedlings.

Of course you could get all fancy and build an awesome do it yourself light stand for seed starting like The Trusty Gardener did.  For most of us just starting out all of that isn’t necessary.  Some people don’t use a special light set up at all–they just use a good south facing windowsill.

windowsill for light

Photo by Abigal Thompson

Once you’ve got your light situation settled it’s time to start some seeds.  If you want to get a real life feel for seed starting in action check out Sugar, Spice and a little bit of Life-Jana’s got hers going!  Through the Loops has a great Mini Seed Starting Tutorial that will walk you through the basic steps of starting a few seeds inside, as does Backyard Farming.   And you won’t want to miss this Irreverent Seed Starting Primer at The Veggie Patch Re-Imagined.  Not only does she have an informative coverage of the basics, she has a nice little Q&A for specific problems at the bottom of the post.

If you want a photographic step by step, About.com is always a great resource.  They don’t let me down with this 10 slide pictoral presentation on how to start your own seeds.

And of course if you are here at Frugal Upstate it’s because you are interested in saving money.  Single Mom Urban Homestead has 5 different frugal ways to start your seedlings.

Do you learn better from videos than text?  No worries!

Here is a video on how to create your own seedling starter pots from newspaper–hows that for frugal?

seed starting - newspaper pots all full

Photo by Henna Lion

Or this one from the Bayou Gardener on how to start seeds indoors part 1 and how to start seeds indoors part 2.  And if you’ve got the time, just wander around his video archives-he’s got some great stuff (and his accent is just fun to listen to!)

Seed Savers Seeds

Photo by Michael Kappel

So what are you waiting for? Go on and start your seeds.

If you still aren’t convinced you should have a vegetable garden, then maybe you better go back and re-read my 13 Reasons to Grow a Vegetable Garden.

You could also check out my “Fresh New Garden” post that shows how our outside garden got it’s start.

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