There are those people that others say have a green thumb because they make growing plants look easy. Then there are others who cannot seem to keep any plant alive. Regardless of the type of person you are, you can make growing plants much easier by using seed starting kits.
Seed starting kits give you the tools you need to grow plants from seeds. While it does involve some skill, having everything you need right there in one kit is very helpful. So, even if you can never seem to make anything grow, you should give seed starting kits a chance. With one of them and a little more information about gardening and plant life cycles, you could turn your thumb green.
The Science Behind Growing Plants from Seeds
To be successful with growing any plants, especially from seeds, you have to understand the basic science behind plant biology. You need to learn what a plant needs to grow and the different stages of growth. That will allow you to take care of your seeds properly and, as they grow, the seedlings.
What a seed needs to grow
The PennState Extension explains that many different aspects must come together for a plant to grow from a seed. To start, the seed needs to germinate. For germination to occur, you need a living seed, and you must provide the right balance of moisture and temperature. Each plant has different needs. When you grow from a seed, the seed package usually contains the directions you need to know. It will tell you how much moisture the plant needs, the required planting conditions, and other imperative information.
In general, your seed needs four things. It needs moisture, which you provide through watering. The seed also needs air, meaning the circulation of air. The soil cannot be too saturated or packed because there should be adequate air flow throughout it. It also needs the right temperature and the right amount of light. You can provide these two things through natural or artificial means. Some seed starting kits come with lights and heating pads.
If you don't give the seed the correct balance of things it needs, it will more than likely die. For example, too much water could drown the seed or allow a fungus to grow that chokes and kills the seed. If you don't give it warm enough conditions to grow in, it will also die. It's a careful balance, and that balance changes as the seed moves through the different stages of germination and growth.
Some seeds grow much easier than others. For certain plants, all you have to do is put the seed in the soil, water it a little, give it sun, and it will grow. Other seeds require a little more work. You may have to crack the shell or soak it in water to prepare it before planting. Some seeds need exposure to extreme temperatures, either hot or cold. That's because some seeds go dormant and need to wake up before they can germinate. If you buy seed starting kits that come with seeds, they usually have the easy-to-grow seeds, so you don't have to worry about special needs.
Stages of germination
Once you get your seeds into the soil, they start the process of germination. The first stage is imbibition. That's when the seed soaks up the moisture from the soil and swells, so its outer layer gets soft enough for the plant inside to bust through once it starts growing. The second stage is the lag phase when the internal changes occur. The last stage is root emergence, when the seed busts through the shell and begins to shoot up to the surface as a seedling.
Reasons to Use Seed Starting Kits
Seed starting kits give you the opportunity to be there from the very beginning of your plant's life. There are many additional reasons why you might want to use seed starting kits and germinate your plants from seeds instead of buying seedlings.
As mentioned, you get to be there for every step of the growth process, which gives you a lot of control over the plant's health and growth, according to HTG Supply. Seed starting kits also allow you to grow organic plants. As long as you buy organic seeds, you are completely in control and can ensure the plant is organic from beginning to end.
You also have a larger selection of plants to grow when you germinate the seeds yourself. There are many plants that greenhouses and other retailers don't offer as seedlings for one reason or another. But you can usually find seed packets for almost any plant you want to grow. You can even grow plants that aren't native to your area or that usually don't thrive in your type of climate.
Finally, the germination process defines a plant's whole life. If something is messed up or goes wrong during germination, it could affect how the plant looks and grows or whether it lives or dies later in its life cycle. Using seed starting kits, you're right there to see what is happening and ensure all the aspects needed for healthy growth are present.
Types of Seed Starting Kits
There's a range of different seed starting kits on the market, and they can be simple or complex. Many different retailers sell seed starting kits. You may find some of the simpler ones at dollar stores. Garden retailers, such as Burpee, often sells the largest range of seed starting kit options.
Simple kits may include a small pot, soil pod, and seeds. These usually include hardy seeds that take little special care to grow because they'll germinate under even the harshest conditions. Sometimes simple kits include loose soil and maybe a cover, which is usually plastic.
The more complex seed starting kits are like mini greenhouses. They have large trays lined with soil pods or pellets. These kits usually have a cover, and some may even come with a heat mat and light. More complex kits may not come with seeds, letting you choose your own.
Parts of a Seed Starting Kit
While the styles of seed starting kits vary, they usually all contain the same general parts. These parts are what you need to germinate seeds regardless of the type of seed you grow.
To start, the kit must include a tray or pot of some type. That's the container in which you grow your plant. It also needs to include soil or soil alternative, called growing medium. While some may include loose soil, most will come with pods or pellets made of compacted soil or growing medium. Growing medium can include peat moss or coconut fiber. Once you add water, the pods expand and provide you with loose growing medium matter. All soil is sterile, and some may contain nutrients. It's designed to provide the seed with the perfect growing environment.
Beyond these two basic components, some kits will come with the seeds. Many include a dome or cover, which helps to lock in moisture and provide a more humid environment. More expensive seed starting kits may come with a heating mat for temperature control and possibly a grow light.
Basic Instructions for Using a Kit
Again, while each kit is different, the process of using them is usually the same. It's important that you make sure to read all the instructions that come with your kit and on the seed packet, if you bought your seeds separately. In general, though, Home Depot explains the basic steps of germinating seeds.
To begin, you put the soil in the pot or cells of the flat. Next, you add in enough water to expand the pods or moisten the loose soil. Make sure not to flood the growing medium, or it will have to dry out before you can plant. You just want it moist to the touch. You'll may have to add more to pods or pellets to enable them to expand and get thoroughly wet.
Once you've prepped the soil, you can start planting your seeds. You should use a finger or small stick to make a hole in the center of the pot or cell. The depth depends on the type of seed you want to grow, so consult the seed packet. You should sow two seeds in each pot or cell. That allows for the chance that one may not germinate. If both do, you can always thin them out later when they reach the seedling stage.
Cover the seeds lightly with growing medium or soil and then cover the pot or tray with the cover or loose plastic wrap. As they grow, make sure to water regularly, expose them to sunlight as needed, and remove the cover now and then to allow for good air flow. Once the seedlings pop up, you can remove the cover for good.
Types of Seeds Best for Beginners
Some types of seeds are more common to find in seed starting kits because they'll grow the best in this type of setting. Gardner's Supply Company explains the two easiest plants to grow from seed are tomatoes and marigolds. If you want to try something different, consider other easy-to-grow seeds, such as cosmos, zinnia, and basil.
There are some seeds you don't ever want to grow in this way. Plants such as beans and poppies grow very fast, so they don't make good kit seeds. These plants usually grow very well directly in the ground and don't need the extra care that comes from using a kit. Check seed packets if you don't know how to grow a seed. The ones not meant for starting inside will usually state to sow them directly in the ground.
Advice and Tips for Using Seed Starting Kits
When it comes to growing any plant, it helps to get some advice and tips on how to do it well. That's especially true if this is your first time using seed starting kits.
One thing you will want advice on is if something goes wrong with your seeds or seedlings. A common issue is seeds that don't germinate. That's almost always due to growing conditions. You have to pay attention to what the seed packet says the seeds need to grow properly. In some cases, seeds that don't germinate were dead when you got them, so again, look at the packet and ensure they were viable seeds when you planted them. Check for an expiration date on the package.
Another issue is plants that get too tall or spindly and lack foliage. That's the result of them not getting enough light, and you cannot reverse the damage. That's why ensuring your seeds get enough light from the very start is so important.
Finally, having your seedlings suddenly die is devastating. Often when this happens, it is because of a fungus. Fungi grow when the conditions are too wet, and there isn't enough air circulation.
The Micro Gardener suggests that you can avoid some serious problems by making sure the containers in the seed starting kits are clean before you plant in them, and that they have proper drainage. Some kits include pots that don't have drain holes, so you will need to put them in yourself.
You also should make sure you plant the seeds at the right time. The seed packet should tell you when is the best time to sow. That ensures the seeds grow in the correct growing cycle, which allows for optimal health.
A great tip from BioAdvanced for when your plants are still germinating is to set the tray or pot on top of your refrigerator. Placing them there will give them much needed heat without the need for a heating pad.
As your seedlings begin to grow, they'll often look very similar. To keep things straight, make sure you label your seeds when you plant them.
Once your plants get their first set of leaves, you can begin fertilizing to provide them with the proper nutrients. You can also use a fan to circulate the air around the plants. Just make sure you don't point it directly at the delicate seedlings.
Common Sense Home suggests rotating your plants often to allow them equal access to the light source. If possible, hang artificial lights directly above so they can shine on all the plants evenly.
When it's time to transplant your seedlings outside, take a couple of weeks to harden them. That just means to take your pots or trays outside for a little bit each day to allow the plants to get accustomed to outdoor conditions. It can help reduce the shock of the transplanting process.
Grow Something Great
Growing a plant from a seed is exciting. It can be a great experience if you make sure you understand what it takes to germinate seeds and care for seedlings. Using seed starting kits is probably the easiest way to get off to the best start. So, pick up one or more seed starting kits and get your garden started today.