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Some potting soil comes dry, and some comes moist. The moist is easier to work with, but is heavier. If you bought dry, you need to get it good and moist first. I like to stir the soil and water in a big plastic tray so I can be sure it's evenly wet.
Then fill all the cells of your planting tray. Tamp the soil gently, don't make it rock hard. Fill each cell pretty much to the top. Check your seed packet for how deep to plant the seed, but for most seeds it's only about twice the size of the seed. Poke a hole in the center of each cell, drop in a couple of seeds (you rarely get 100% germination, and you want every cell to end up with a plant in it), and cover with soil.
You should mark what got planted where somehow, I've tried lots of methods and didn't like most. This year, I just tucked the seed packet in next to the appropriate cells and that seems to be working so far. But the most reliable is probably the white plastic markers and a permanent felt pen. The markers have to be short enough to not interfere with the cover.
Once all the cells are planted, put the cover on and put the entire thing on a warming mat made for starting seeds. (Note - don't try to use a heating pad. They will get too hot, and they're not safe with all the water that might get spilled on them.)
Check on your flats every day. You should see water droplets on the cover, that's how you know the heat mats are working. I like to tap on the cover and make it 'rain' in my little microcosm. But that's not necessary, it'll do it by itself!
You may be surprised how quickly the seeds sprout, sometimes in as little as three days. As SOON as the seedlings peek out of the soil they need 14 to 17 hours of full-spectrum light. That's why I say to check every day, if they grow for a couple of days without light they will get too tall and thin (leggy) and will probably not make it.
Some brand of 'gro light' is best, the light should be two to four inches above the seedling. And their cover should be removed, because the cover filters the light. Some people start seeds on a sunny windowsill, but I have more luck with the grow lights.
I like to use a timer for the lights, otherwise I'm constantly forgetting to turn them on in the morning, or I leave them on overnight.
If you planted more than one kind of seed they won't all sprout at the same time. But the ones that do sprout need to be under the light, and to be taken off the warming mat. If you leave your seedlings on the warm mat with no cover to hold the moisture in, you could kill them by baking. However, you cannot let them dry out, so check them every day, and water them as needed.
Many people recommend watering from the bottom (pour the water in the tray and the soil wicks it up through the holes in the cells). But I prefer to water from the top because otherwise it seems some cells don't get enough water.
When my seedlings are tiny I like to put them back under cover on the warming mat for overnight, because once the lights go off it gets cold there in my basement.
Thinning - your seed packets should have instructions for thinning, but if more than one plant sprouted in each cell youneed to thin them. I know this is hard. It's like they're all your little babies. But be ruthless, and the ones that remain will be stronger for it. Don't pull out the excess seedlings, that may uproot the ones you wanted to keep. Use scissors or your fingernails to clip off the excess seedlings.
If you've used a good potting soil you don't need to add fertilizer to young seedlings. But if you started your plants early, like I do, you will need to transplant them into larger pots at some point, and that is a good time to use some light fertilizer.
Well, have a great time starting your own plants from seed. If you need a yard to plant your garden in, we still have time to find your a house if you call me now!
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I write posts on real estate issues and local events in the Denver metro area, especially those *communities between Denver and Boulder, as a public service. My hope is to give people an idea of the 'flavor' of our community, in case they're new or moving to the Denver area.
I am a residential real estate agent, happily helping folks buy a house or sell a house in the beautiful and friendly *suburbs northwest of Denver.
Disclaimer: ActiveRain Corp. does not necessarily endorse the real estate agents, loan officers and brokers listed on this site. These real estate profiles, blogs and blog entries are provided here as a courtesy to our visitors to help them make an informed decision when buying or selling a house. ActiveRain Corp. takes no responsibility for the content in these profiles, that are written by the members of this community.