How to grow your seedlings
No sight is more rewarding than your own seedlings finally pushing through. But what's the best way to start? And what do you need to grow your own seedlings? We're happy to answer all your questions and help you become a successful homegrower of your favourite fruit, vegetables and more.
What are seedlings? And which seedlings can you grow in Canada?
Seedlings are young plants that have germinated from seeds and have developed their first leaves. They are grown in a controlled environment such as a greenhouse, a windowsill, or indoors and then transplanted into a garden or larger pots.
In Canada, common types of seedlings grown in the home garden or commercially include vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and brassicas (such as broccoli and cauliflower), as well as herbs, flowers, and some fruit trees. It all depends on the local growing conditions and the time of the year, as well as personal preferences. The popularity of certain seedlings will vary across the different regions of Canada due to differences in climate and growing conditions.
First things first: seed starting equipment
Before you do anything, you're going to need the basic seed start equipment.
- Seed-starting mix
There are several different kinds of seed-starting mix. The most common mixes are a coconut coir-based mix, a vermiculite and perlite mix, compost-based mix or soilless mix. Whichever seed-starting mix you choose, make sure it is peat-free. Extracting peat releases carbon and destroys natural habitat.
When it comes to the sowing containers, you can pretty much use anything you have handy. You can use pots, seed flats or plug trays. Pots and seed flats are more space-efficient as you can transplant seedlings into their own pot or flat after germinating. A plug tray, however, offers the benefit of giving the seedlings a space to grow until it’s time to plant them out, meaning less root disturbance.
Reasons for growing your own seedlings
Why grow your own seedlings when you can just buy them from a professional grower? There are several reasons for growing your own seedlings, such as:
- You save money. A single seedling will typically cost you about the same amount as a full packet of seeds. So for a couple of dollars, you could either get one plant or, if you choose seeds, potentially dozens.
- Control over variety: By growing your own seedlings, you have control over which varieties you want to grow, giving you the ability to choose plants that are well-suited to your specific growing conditions and preferences.
- Timing: Starting seedlings indoors allows you to get a head start on the growing season and extend the growing season by starting plants early.
- Space: Growing seedlings at home allows you to maximise your growing space, as seedlings can be started in smaller containers and then transplanted into larger ones or into the garden as they grow.
- Sense of accomplishment: There is a great sense of accomplishment in watching seedlings grow and mature into healthy plants, and it can be a fun and rewarding hobby.
How to grow your seedlings
Now that you know the basics to start growing your seedlings, it’s time to actually get to action. You have chosen the right seed-starting mix and got yourself a selection of containers. To grow seedlings, you can follow these steps:
- Sow the seeds: Follow the seed packet instructions for spacing and planting depth. Make sure to water the soil gently after planting.
- Provide appropriate temperature and light: Most seedlings need a temperature of about 21°C and bright but indirect light. If natural light is not enough, use grow lights.
- Water regularly: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Avoid getting water on the leaves to prevent disease.
- Fertilise: Once seedlings have their first set of true leaves, you can start fertilising with a diluted all-purpose liquid fertiliser.
- Transplant: Once seedlings are big enough, you can transplant them into larger containers or directly into the garden.
Remember to harden off the seedlings gradually before transplanting to the garden to help them acclimate to outdoor conditions.
One last pro-tip when growing seedlings
One important tip for growing seedlings is to avoid over-watering. Over-watering can lead to damping off, a common fungal disease that can kill young seedlings. To prevent this, make sure the soil is well-draining and only water when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. It's also a good idea to water seedlings from the bottom by placing the tray in a shallow dish of water, allowing the soil to absorb the water from the bottom up. This helps to prevent water from splashing onto the leaves and causing disease. We wish you the best of luck!