5 Biggest Mistakes Begginers Make When Starting Seeds Indoors
I don’t pretend to be a great gardener. In fact, I don’t even pretend to be a good one! I grew up in Ohio, where dense forest blocked out all sunlight during the summer months and woodland creatures ate everything that grew in the shade. My gardening experience started a little later in life. Just two years ago, in fact.
The hard thing about gardening is that once you learn something you have to wait an entire year to try it again! (I much prefer sewing where you make a mistake, unpick it and try it again 3 minutes later.) Last year we tried to start our seeds indoors for the first time and had hardly any plants survive. But we learned a lot about what NOT to do and I’ve been waiting all year to try again. I thought I’d share the things we learned so you won’t have to wait a whole year to try again like we did!
1: Plants need a lot of light. We thought our little grow lights would be enough, so last year we set up shop in the basement with just the lights and a little window across the room to provide light. Our seeds grew, but they were weak and skinny. They put all their energy into growing tall in hopes to find more light. This year we set up shop next to our sunniest window (in my studio) to take advantage of the extra light. We also put our grow lights on a timer to be sure our plants would get a full days light every day. (I’m good at forgetting stuff like that!)
2: Plant in big, individual containers. Last year we bought one of those seed starter kits with the itty bitty containers. Each plant had about 2 cubic inches of soil and all the containers were connected. It looked something like this one. Now, I’m sure those containers are great for gardeners who know what they’re doing but as a beginner I found two big problems. A) the amount of soil was so small that the containers dried out really fast. I forgot to water one day and half my plants dried up and died. B) With all the containers connected I lacked the freedom to move plants once they started growing. This was a problem because I didn’t realize that some plants would grow fast and tall and others would stay short. I didn’t want to keep the grow light too far from the short ones, but by keeping it close I ended up frying some of the tall plants. This year all my plants are in separate containers so I can move all the tall plants together and adjust my light accordingly. This year I used a kit that looks like this one.
3:Use fertilizer and good soil. This one is pretty self explanatory. At first I thought that you could grow good plants without it, and that it was just the Super Gardeners using it to win State Fair ribbons. Not so. Half way through the summer last year we started using it and our plants went crazy. I can’t believe I wanted so long! I’ve had really good luck going to a local nursery and asking for recommendations on what fertilizer to use. They know the area and growing plants is their lively hood. I’d say their advice is worth spending a few extra dollars on the right fertilizer from their nursery rather than randomly choosing something at a big-box store.
4: Keep your seeds well watered. You can’t forget to check on them, not even for one day! When we had them set up in the basement last year it was easy to forget. This year, having them in a room I use daily should make it easier. I’ve found bottom watering makes up for my lack of gardening knowledge.
5: Grow things you like. Ok, this one seems so obvious. But if you’re like me, even when you plan your garden around things you use in the kitchen, it’s not always super efficient. Example: I love the idea of a salsa garden but I can never make all the ingredients ripen at the same time! I found myself stressing out about using our garden veggies at the exact right time and then one day I sat back and thought- this is supposed to be fun! So we reworked our plans and found that planting ‘grazing veggies’ works better than ‘cooking veggies’ for our household. Sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, strawberries- those all work great for us because we can go spend some time in our yard and find little snacks here and there while we’re out. There’s no stress and no planning needed. Your needs might be completely different, so as you go through your summer this year take note of what gets plucked off the vine as soon as it’s ripe and what veggies you forgot to harvest. Chances are you’re subconsciously choosing the type of garden that’s right for you!