Getting your seedlings off to a healthy start with these seed starting tips.
One of the most early-season and popular booths are those vendors selling plant starts. Why not purchase a few pouches of hearty Alaskan seeds and start a little green near your windows, and make a little green in May! Alaska experiences less than 120 days of prime growing weather and successful Alaska gardeners not only start seeds indoors but also choose plants that can survive in Alaskan hardiness zones.
1. Decide which types of seeds you want to plant, whether it’s flowers or vegetables. Select flowers and vegetables that do better in cooler temperatures by using a hardiness zones map that shows average annual minimum temperatures for growing.
2. Timing. Do a bit of homework to see which seeds will work best for your selected growing site, whether it’s a balcony container, above ground beds, shaded area or a large dedicated garden space. Consider the recommended growing time to determine the best planting dates, allowing plenty of time for seeds to germinate.
3. Use larger, flat containers to avoid overcrowding. Plastic pots or recycled containers are preferable to clay pots because the plastic retains moisture more consistently. If you are going to use recycled yogurt or margarine tubs, poke holes in the bottom for drainage. Sanitize containers by soaking them in a 10 percent bleach solution for 15 minutes, then let dry.
4. Spread soiless seed-starting mix evenly over the top of seeds to about two times the seed diameter. Seeds that need light should lie directly on the surface. Each seed needs to be in contact with a moist surface to begin germinating.
5. Prevent disease by providing good airflow and drainage to your seedlings. Too much moisture and not enough air circulation can cause fungal infection. This is called “Damping Off” and is a major problem.
6. Cover trays and containers with plastic wrap to help keep constant moisture. Seeds are very sensitive to under-watering just as much as overwatering. As soon as the seeds germinate, remove the plastic wrap.
7. Keep seeds warm to encourage germination. Seeds will need the temperatures to be 65 degrees to 75 degrees to germinate.
8. Most seeds will not germinate without sunlight and will do best in a sunny, south-facing window. Give the containers a quarter turn each day to prevent plants overreaching toward the light. Gently brush your hand against the tops of the seedlings to encourage strong stem growth.
9. Before transplanting outdoors plants should be “hardened off.” Limit watering and set the plants outside for longer periods of time each day. Plants may become yellow so allow a week or more for this process. Try not to set plants out in temperatures below 45 degrees.
10. Grow a little green and make a little green. Complete a Vendor Application for the Spenard Farmer's Market and SELL your extra plants starts at the Market starting May 18!
Here is a link to more helpful tips on Seed Starting and Transplanting from the Cooperative Extension Service.