There are many reasons why someone would wish to start their seeds growing before being planted in the garden. Many wish to extend their growing seasons. Others wish to ensure their seeds are indeed viable before they take up precious space in their gardens. In addition, other gardeners like to start seeds indoors just for personal enjoyment. These reasons are just a few of many, but they all have in common the ability to be involved with the whole growing process from start to finish.
Thankfully, starting seeds doesn’t need to be an expensive pursuit. I thought I would share a cheap tip that I am trying this year. (Hopefully, it will work out!)
First of all, you will need seeds and some good growing medium. For self-sufficient gardeners, I always recommend growing Non-GMO seeds. (Read here for more information on why.) As for good soil, there are many options out there. To have soil mixed with your own compost is often the most ideal goal for homesteaders and survivalists, but there are some good pre-made mixes out there as well. Just keep in mind that if you are using your local soil, you may wish to test the pH and drainage of it first before using it for planting as it may need to be conditioned before it can used suitably.
Next, you obviously need something to start the seeds in. The cheap tip that I thought I would share this year was to use recycled toilet-paper rolls. To get more out of what I had on hand, (and to not have containers that would be too deep,) I cut them all in half before using. Of course, other things could be used as well such as cardboard egg cartons, newspaper, or other biodegradable containers. You can be creative. As long as it will dissolve into the soil, my guess is that it will probably work. The only other thing that I will add here is it that you should ensure that the bottoms of the containers are open, (or have enough holes,) in order to allow water to seep into the soil from the bottom up. (See below on watering.)
Next, you will need something to place the seed starters in. For me, I placed them in a clear plastic box with a clear lid. Any flat, shallow container will do such a tray or a plastic box lid. It just needs to be able to hold water. However, I chose a clear box with a clear lid since it will let light in and the lid can help control the humidity for the seeds…kind of like a “mini-greenhouse.” The only thing here, if you choose this also, is make sure that your miniature “greenhouse” will not cook the seeds as you will need to monitor and regulate the temperature inside the box. Of course, whatever you use to place the seed starters in will need to allow in enough light for the seedlings once they start to grow.
Once you have your seed starter containers and something to place them in, you are free to fill the containers with moist (not wet) soil. Sow the seeds according to each plant’s needs. Some grow best under some soil, and some grow best when placed on top. Other more finicky seeds have special requirements that you should be aware of before planting. For example, some could use several hours of soaking before sowing. Others yet call for exposure to different temperatures before they will sprout. Consult books, websites, or seed packets in order to determine the individual needs of the seeds you have chosen to plant.
After the seeds are sown, place the seed starters in whatever will hold them (if you haven’t done so already,) and fill it with a bit water (enough to cover the bottom of the box, lid, tray, etc.) As the water is soaked upwards into the seed containers, just replenish as necessary. This will water the seeds from the bottom up instead of watering from the top. This is suggested because it is possible to dislodge the seeds if the water is poured too vigorously onto the soil. Another option, if you still wish to water from above, is to water the seeds by using a spray bottle, but one would need to be sure that the soil in each container gets sufficient water so that the soil does not dry out completely.
Once you have completed those steps, just set it all out in a sunny location and let the seed starting commence!