Photo by Matt Montgomery on Unsplash
January can be a time of great impatience for many of us. The new year has begun but spring is still a few months away. Many of us are itching to get back out into the garden but the dreary winter months can really drag. So why not bring the garden inside?
If you have a sunroom or greenhouse you can start a whole range of plants, ready for the spring to ensure the longest growing season. If not, a sunny window ledge will do as long as the temperature is fairly consistent and stays between 60 and 80 degrees F.
If it gets a little colder in your house, you can still grow great healthy seedlings through the winter months. Many of us will have excess bubble wrap left over from christmas packaging. Simply wrap the sides of the pots with a few layers of bubble wrap for a little extra insulation from the cold.
Avoid places that are near radiators or heaters as the heat can really dry out the soil. Although not as eco-friendly, we have found it is better to start seeds in plastic tubs as terracotta or clay pots can suck the moisture out of the soil.
Soil or compost?
We can’t lie, you’re probably gonna get better results with a good potting compost than garden soil. Compost contains a good blend of nutrients that the plant needs to grow up healthy and productive. Soil, on the other hand, is a total unknown. It could be magnificent but without testing it, we can’t know.
If you’re a first-timer, save yourself the grief and grab some good quality potting compost. It’s not expensive and guarantees you the best results.
You might be surprised to hear that for a seed to germinate (sprout a baby plant), it doesn’t actually need soil. Many seeds can be sprouted on damp cotton or tissue paper. They only need a little oxygen, favorable temperature and humidity, and they will happily sprout baby plants.
You can try growing your own wheatgrass, microgreens or sprouts on damp paper towels or cotton balls. Simply spread the paper or cotton in a shallow tray, thoroughly dampen it then sow your seeds. You should get shoots within five days and edible green within a couple of weeks. Some seeds like wheatgrass should be soaked beforehand to efficiently germinate.
Seeds are really amazing things. They contain all the vital food and nutrients that the tiny plant needs in its early stages of life, and they are incredibly resistant. Just give them a little helping hand and they will reward you many times over.
Low-maintenance seed germinating
If you take care of your plastic pots, they should last you many years and some are even recyclable. Alternatively you can save plastic food pots or cartons from the trash, and plant your seeds in these. If you like to avoid plastic when possible, another more biodegradable option is cardboard milk or juice cartons which can be cut to whatever size you need.
When you plant your seeds, the soil should be damp but not soaked. Too much water will cause the seeds to rot and mold to form on the soil surface. Simply fill the pot with soil or compost upto about an inch from the top, sow your seeds and then cover with a light layer of compost. At this point, take a spray bottle and douse the surface with a few good sprays to dampen the soil.
It’s best to use a spray bottle because it will not compact the soil or bury the seeds like heavy water from a watering can might. After your seeds germinate, continue to water with the sprayer until they grow to a substantial size. This will stop the delicate seedlings being damaged by the weight of the water. It also allows a lot more control and even distribution of water.
Photo by B. Halliday from Dolmen Editing.
We have found a useful method for germinating seeds in pots is to cover them like in the photograph above. This creates a miniature greenhouse effect in the pot that traps moisture and makes the soil less likely to dry out. We use clear cellophane wrapping we save from grocery packaging and attach it to the pots with clothes pegs for quick easy removal.
Using this method, you can pretty much sow the seeds, give them a little water, cover them and leave them be. They probably won’t need any additional watering for at least a week, in which time they will likely be shooting up out of the soil.
Put the seedlings somewhere you often pass by so you can keep an eye on them. If no condensation forms on the plastic cover, the soil may be a little too dry so give them a little spray of water. If there is lots of condensation forming on the plastic, you can just remove it for a while and let them breathe.
Within a few days to a week, you should see the seedlings starting to poke through the soil. This is one of the most exciting parts of the growing process.
Now all you need to do is make sure to keep them watered and that they get regular sunlight. About five to six hours a day on a sunny window is fine.
If you get very short days, you can get a LED grow lamp for about $20 to give your precious plants a little extra light.
What can I plant right now?
You can plant a whole load of things right now, either to beautify your house or to feed you and your family. You can even plant cat grass that your feline bud will absolutely love.
Some of the best things to grow as a beginner gardener are annual herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley and dill. You can grow perennial herbs from seed that will stay with you year after year like mint, oregano, rosemary, sage and chives.
Try planting in advance for the summer things like trailing tomatoes (which happily grow in pots) and bell peppers or chillies. You can plant fast growing veggies like radishes and chinese cabbage to be harvested straight from the pot.
You can also grow decorative flowers for your home or experiment with moss, succulents, cacti and even mushrooms.
Starting an indoor garden is a lot of fun. It really draws us into the cycle of seasons and helps us appreciate how amazing nature is. Gardening is such a simple thing, but it is a great stress reliever and an excellent way to calm down after a hectic day.
We’re sure that a home full of healthy blooming plants will give you the same joy as it gives us. Give it a go!
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