Basics to Seeding a Garden
Seeding your plants is one of the most important task because without seeding there will be nothing to grow, maintain and harvest.
Knowing how to seed each plant is also wildly important.
Roots will want to be planted directly into the soil, as will melons and pumpkins vines.
General lettuce, greens, tomatoes and eggplants will want to be started in seed trays.
Plan Your Bed
Know how much space you have, when first starting out planning by the square-foot gardening method will be the easiest. I always do a mixed bed and rarely plant a monocrop. More on my garden beds here.
In the square foot method you mark off 1 foot by 1 foot square in your garden to plan.
In each square you can have:
1 tomato,eggplant, cauliflower, or pepper plant
2 calendula, basil or cucumber plants
2-4 lettuce or arugula plants
2 chard or mustard green plants
9 root vegetables
Here is an example plan of my 2.5 foot by 5 foot bed.
Remember to put taller plants furthest from the sun to not block the shorter ones.
Setting up Seed Trays
When to start? You are going to seed most your fruits, veggies and greens 6 weeks before the final frost.
Do a quick google for your state. Most final frost dates are in April or May, or like me you will have year round to nearly year round growing conditions and have final frost in January or February.
When you have your final frost date use your calendar to count backwards 6 weeks and find your seeding date. Chances are your seeding day is in March. You will want to seed and keep your seeds indoors in a sunny and warm place. If they sprout and are getting tall and lanky they don’t have enough sun. If they aren’t germinating they are likely too cold (they make heating pads and grow lights if you are having a really hard time with germination or get very serious about your garden). If you live in the south you can potentially seed in your trays directly outside, as long as it doesn’t frost or get too cold overnight.
I like to plant my seed trays in the same way I will plant the garden bed.
First the tomatoes, then the peppers, eggplant and basil, finally the greens.
But you can set up your seed tray anyway that works for you.
Remember, you will seed roots, melon a squash directly into the outdoor soil.
The soil for your seed trays should be a mix of good organic compost and rich soil. You want your seedlings to have enough energy to set up strong roots and grow about 4 true leaves.
Every plant sets out two starter leaves, these are small and symmetrical, after these leaves you will see your first true leaves growing. All plants will be different heights after their 6 weeks in seed trays but if there are 3-4 true leaves your plant should be ready to transplant.
You will put 2-3 seeds in each space to increase the chances of germination. If two plants grow you can gently break up the soil and separate them at the time of planting.
I usually thin out the third plant if it happens to germinate.
Preparing the Bed
After fear of last frost has passed you can start to seed outside.
You will want to till up or aerate your soil before planting for the season. If you have it covered in cardboard either make big holes for seeding or remove the cardboard. Either way agitate and loosen the soil.
If you composted and covered in cardboard before wintering your bed you are ready to start planting.
If not you will want to till in a good portion of fresh compost before planting.
When your soil and seedlings both are ready plant your seedlings as you planned and seed any root vegetables and melons.
At the bottom of your seed tray you should find tiny holes, use a stick to loosen and push up the seedling, do not pull it out by the stem as you will damage the roots. You want to plant the entire seedling and compact root into prepared soil.
Soak the soil well with fresh clean water and cover in a layer of mulch to keep weeds down.
If you were unable to plant your own seedlings you can buy pre-seeded plants from your local farmers market or nursery and plant them into your planned garden bed. Don’t feel bad about not being successful at seeding the first time. Proper seeding takes good planning and dedicated care as their delicate baby plants can die with too much or too little warmth and light. Keep trying, each lesson is a good lesson.