There is something so wonderful about watching little seeds turn into sprouts from an indoor container. Many gardeners are skeptical when talking about growing seedlings or just about any outdoor plant indoors. Little do they know, this is a great way to start plants off in a strong and healthy way while having a great deal of fun. Starting seeds from indoors is actually quite easy and fills those winter month voids with sprouts appearing before your very eyes.

Why Start Seeds Indoors?

One, it'll give you a jump on spring planting and it's a great way to get through the doldrums of winter. Seeds are a great way to start plants that can be quite difficult to find as a full plant at your local nursery. Starting from seeds vs a grown plant will save you a great deal of cash as well because you will get great deal more for your money. A packet of seeds will have at least a dozen seeds and only cost a few bucks. One full plant will cost more than that packet of seeds. Again, buying a packet of seeds and starting them indoors will be a rewarding experience during the cold winter months.

Can I Choose Any Seeds I Wish and Get Great Results?

If you are a seasoned gardener who has worked with seeds, yes. If you are new to seed starting, it's a good idea to start with those that are easier to grow. Tomatoes, Basil, Peppers, Marigold, Zinnias and Cosmos are really easy to grow and germinate very quickly. Once you have mastered some of these easier varieties, go ahead and try some of your favorites that are little more on the fussy side.

What Type of Soil Works Best for Seeds?

A light weight mix formula created for seeds is your best bet. Garden soil and other soils are too heavy and will not drain as well. Garden soils also carry organisms that can kill or damage your seedlings.

Are There Specific Pots I Should Use?

Containers with excellent drainage holes and designed for seeds such as trays and/or pots are the best choices. Some people like using biodegradable pots such as Paper Pots, Cowpots or Reusable Trays. You may also purchase self watering systems that are literally foolproof.

How Deep Should The Seeds Be Placed?

Your seed packet will give you needed information including the depth of the seeds. You must be careful not to plant seeds too deep. Plants have a very limited amount of food stored for nourishing the seeds. If the seeds are planted too deeply, they will run out of food before they ever reach the surface. Each packet has very concise and clear planting instructions that should be followed.

A Windowsill vs a Grow Light:

Although you are welcome to place your seedlings on a sunny windowsill, it's advisable to use a grow light. First, seedlings will develop more quickly with a light vs your sunny window. Secondly, the light coming through the window is not as intense as the summer sun, so they might not receive the desired light for good growth. Plants grown under a grow light will be larger and stockier and therefore adapted better once transplanted outdoors. If you use a grow light, make sure the light is a few inches above the seedlings' tops. As the sprouts start getting higher, adjust the light's height.

Should Grow Lights Remain On All Day and Night?

Seedlings will grow better if they have the grow light kept on for 14 to 16 hours a day. They do need some hours of darkness in order to rest, so you might want to purchase a timer for the lights.

Should They Be Watered From the Bottom or the Top?

As a general rule, you should water from the bottom so the surface soil remains dryer. If surface soil becomes really wet you could run into disease issues. If you have small seeds or those requiring surface sown, use a mist to keep the surface moist for germination.

When Should I Remove a Greenhouse Cover?

Greenhouse covers are great for holding in moisture and humidity for a faster germination. At the first sign of sprout growth, remove the cover. This gives the sprouts air circulation and keeps them away from various diseases.

Should Seedlings Be Thinned Out?

Once they start growing, they might start crowding each other out. That's the time to start thinning the seeds. You need to choose the strongest ones to stay and remove the weaker ones. Some gardeners choose to remove the weaker ones and replant them. Roots can become damaged but if you want to give it a try go ahead. If you choose to just thin out the plants, snip off the seedlings, that are being removed, at the soil line.

When To Fertilize:

When the seeds' food storage structure starts appearing, they look like leaves but aren't. When the second sets of real leaves start developing. These are the times to start your fertilization.

When Should Plants Be Placed In Larger Pots:

Some of your larger, fast growing seedlings will need to be moved to larger pots before it's time for them to go outdoors. Tomatoes are a good example, so when they get around four inches tall, gently remove them from their smaller pots.

When Should Plants Be Moved Outdoors?

Depending on the climate you live in and when the last frost arrives in the spring will dictate when you should move your plants outdoors. Seed packets should offer planting suggestions regarding their sowing requirements.

You should also consider whether your plants like cool or warm growing conditions. If the packet doesn't give you enough information, there are reference books that address all plants and their ideal environment.

I Don't Know The Last Frost Date, What Should I Do?

If you have moved from a different part of the country or are new to gardening, others will help you out. Ask a friend, a neighbor or contact the local gardening center, these people will be glad to help you out.

How Will My Plants Inoculate To Outdoor An Environment?

The process is called "hardening off", it simply helps the plants to become used to outdoor conditions. Outdoor conditions are harsher than the soft life they have experience indoors. Approximately one week before planting your seedlings into the garden, place them in a protected area outdoors for a few hours a day and bring them in a night. The protected area should be partial shade and out of the wind. Gradually expose them to more sunshine and wind, leaving them outside but moving them around, for approximately one week to ten days.

Problems Along The Way:

Poor germination can be a problem with some plants. Usually this is caused by seedlings that take a little longer to germinate. The packets should have the germination period and growth rate for that specific plant. Some seeds will take two or more weeks to start sprouting.

Poor germination may also occur from too wet or too cold soil which will cause them to rot. Sometimes the soil is too dry and the seeds are not capable of absorbing the moisture needed to sprout. Their roots are very fragile and this will cause them to die before any shoots can emerge. Seeds that are not properly stored or are too old will also not germinate.

Soil borne fungi will attack stems, causing the plants to fall over.You will have to start over by cleaning the containers and sterilizing the mixture. The soil should dry out or be mostly dried out before applying water. Make sure their is good air circulation such as a fan if needed. In order to clean and disinfect used containers, use a solution of 10% bleach and 90% water.

If you notice white fuzzy growth or green slimy parts on the surface of your mix or the outside of your biodegradable pots, it's more than likely mold or algae. This is a sign that the mix is way too wet. Although the seedling will probably be fine, you need to get that mix partially dried out. Again, use a fan or other options to bring about good air circulation.

Leggy plants are not getting enough light. Place them under a grow light with the light only a few inches above the plants. Keep the lights on for 14 to 16 hrs a day. If your room temperatures are too warm, this cause leggy problems as well. Over crowding and poor fertilization will cause weak and pale plants.

Pale leaves that are green, yellow or purple are probably a sign of poor nutrients. Once the seedlings are approximately one to two inches in height, start feeding them fertilizer. Use a water-soluble fertilizer that is diluted to half strength for a few weeks. Then start applying full strength each week. Always follow the directions on the labels.