I started these seedlings by sowing a bunch of seeds together – each type in one container. At this stage its been about 3 weeks since the seeds were sown.
The seedlings have some true leaves now so its time to move them to individual cells to grow on.
To get this far, I just followed the directions on the seed packet. Pay attention to the timing when you start the seeds so the seedlings are the optimum size to plant out. Also, note whether the seeds need light to germinate and do not cover those types with seed starting mix, just surface sow them.
In the past, I would try to start seeds like these in individual cell packs because it seemed like more work to start them in one container and then transfer them. But over time I discovered this method is actually easier for me for certain kinds of seeds.
Sometimes the seeds are so tiny it’s hard to get just a couple in each cell, so you end up with “clumps” you need to thin. (Not to mention wasted seed and the heartbreak of ruthlessly destroying all the extra baby seedlings.) Some of the seeds germinate erratically (I find this more true with perennial flowers than annuals) so you end up with a bunch in one cell and none in another. With this method I can grow on the strongest seedlings and have one in each cell.
To pot them up, first I fill a cell flat with sterile seed starting mix and make a hole in the center of each cell. I want to have a new home ready for the seedlings before I remove them from their old one
Then I gently remove the soil and seedlings from the tray where they are growing by tipping it upside down into my hand and setting the soil clump down. Break it apart gently to free the seedlings.
Then pluck out a seedling. Make sure you handle it by a leaf – not by the stem. If the leaf gets a little squished or torn, no big deal. But if the stem gets damaged it can be the demise of the seedling.
Then just tuck the little guy’s roots into the hole in the cell and gently push the soil in place.
Once I have all the seedlings in the flat, I water them with a very gentle stream of plain water. I use a watering can but cover most of the hole with my finger to get a very small stream. You could also use a spray bottle. The water from the top helps settle the soil around the roots of the seedling. Sometimes they tip a bit when you water, you can straighten them back up but they often straighten on their own.
The seed trays need to be placed back under good light to grow on, either grow lights or a very sunny window.
I like to use self-watering seed starting trays although other containers are fine, you just need to be more watchful. Self-watering trays make my life so much easier because I can go for a while between filling the water reservoir. As the plants get bigger, you may be surprised at how often you need to water them. They look small but are growing quickly and the grow lights or sun light can dry the soil quickly.
At this stage I start using some liquid fertilizer in the water because the seed starting mix does not have much nutrition for the plants. I mix it about one quarter strength.
Here is my set-up with self-watering trays and grow lights. You can see I still use recycled yogurt cups too! I try to get the seedlings as much light as possible by lowering the light close the to seedlings. I also have it on a timer to get 16 hours of light a day.