By Linda Ly
Growing your own plants from seed is a great way to maximize a garden on a budget. Seed packets cost only a couple of dollars but contain anywhere from 25 to 800 seeds, saving you the expense of starter plants that can quickly add up if you have a large space to fill. With seeds, you can explore a beautiful and unique array of herb and vegetable varieties not found in standard supermarket or nursery plant selections. They’re also very easy to start for the novice gardener; all you need are soil, sun, water, and our helpful step-by-step guide below.
5 Easy Steps to Starting Seeds Outdoors:
1. Prepare your planting bed by removing weeds, rocks, roots, and other plant debris from last season. Turn the soil over with a shovel or spade to aerate it and break apart clods. Add a 3-inch layer of compost on top and work it into the soil several inches down.
3. Use a trowel to make a shallow trench across the bed.
4. Following the suggested spacing on your seed packet, place the seeds in the trench and lightly cover them with soil. Make more trenches as needed to sow the remaining seeds.
5. Water the soil with a gentle shower using a water nozzle each day, being careful not to displace the seeds. Keep the surface evenly moist until the seeds germinate.
Question: When should seeds be started outside?
Answer: The general rule is to wait until all risk of frost has passed in your area. The ground should be free of ice crystals and the soil should be easily workable. For most growing regions, seeds are best started in spring (after the last freeze) and in late summer to early fall (at least 12 weeks before the first hard freeze).
Question: How deep should the seed trench be?
Answer: Aim for ¼ inch to 1 inch. Refer to your seed packet instructions for planting depths specific to each variety.
Question: What types of seeds are best sown directly in the ground?
Answer: Root vegetables (such as beets, turnips, and radishes), plants with long taproots (such as carrots, dandelions, and parsley), and plants that are sensitive to transplanting (such as peas, beans, and squash) are best seeded in the garden where they will grow.
Question: How much water do seedlings need?
Answer: In their first few weeks of life, seedlings need more moisture near the surface where their roots are. The first 1 to 2 inches of soil should be consistently damp every day. As their roots become more established, water less frequently throughout the week (but more deeply so that the first 4 inches stay moist) to encourage the roots to reach down.
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