Seed Starting

Alfrea Farming expert – Julie / April 2017

With your quality seeds in hand (check out our blog on seed catalogs), it’s time to plan how to start your seeds. While there’s no one size fits all solution for seed starting this guide will help get you off on the right foot.

Here are five seed starting tips.

1 – Potting Soil

Not all potting soils are created equal. Choosing the right potting soil can make a big difference in your seedling’s success. I always buy potting soil that has been certified for organic use, which is designated by a label that will say OMRI Approved and/or NOP Certified. I often see misleading labels that will have the words “natural” or “organic” in the title but lack the OMRI or NOP label. Be aware of these confusing marketing tactics.

Pitt Moss

Peacefull Valley Organic Potting Soil

Dr Earth Potting Soil

Fox Organic Potting Soil

2 – Containers

There are so many containers to consider starting seeds in. Do you want to upcycle those egg cartons? Great, but consider the fact that if your seeds will be in there for more than a week or so mold will likely take off in this environment. Peat pots are another common container. While they seem like a better alternative to plastic, many peat bog ecosystems are being overmined. Cowpots are one of my favorite containers. They’re made using pasteurized cow manure (they don’t stink) that would otherwise end up potentially polluting the water. The added bonus is that you can plant them right in the ground and as they break down they act as a fertilizer.

3 – Planning

Having a good plan for your garden as a whole and your seed starting will help you tremendously. I typically plan out exactly how many plants of each crop I would like to have, based on the space I have and how much I want to harvest. But even the best laid plans often go off track so I always seed about 20% more than I think I’ll need. For example if I want to plant 10 tomato plants I would seed 12 plants. It’s always better to have extra seedlings because in gardening you can’t go back in time.

4 – Timing

Most seedlings need 4-8 weeks of growth time before they are ready to go into the ground. Follow the instructions on the seed packet and count back from your planned planting date to figure out when you should start your seeds. Start them too soon and your seedlings could get root bound. Start them too late and the small seedlings may struggle once transplanted into the ground. Knowing your last freeze date and understanding what crops can or cannot tolerate a frost will also help you figure out the timing.

5 – Planting

Moisten your soil and fill your containers. Plant 2-3 seeds in each container. Once the seeds germinate and size up a few days, thin the container by culling out the weaker, smaller seedlings. Keep seedlings watered for 4-8 weeks before transplanting into your garden. Crops that prefer to be transplanted (start seeds indoors): Tomatoes, Eggplant, Peppers, Fennel, Cabbage, Kohlrabi, Onions, Scallions, Head Lettuce, Kale, Collard Greens, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Summer Squash Crops that prefer to be direct seeded crops (plant seeds into ground): Carrots, Dill, Cilantro, Beans, Beets, Radishes, Turnips, Salad Mixes.

Cross reference Alfrea blog postings:

Planting Guidelines

Guide to Seed Catalogs

Bees and your Garden

Happy Gardening!

Alfrea was built to help gardeners and landowners connect.

Your Marketplace for Land Sharing, Garden Services, and connecting you to Fresh Local food.

Our Land Sharing option helps people who want to rent a garden plot, find landowners to want their space put to productive use. By starting a garden share, you can:

  • Directly address the No. 1 problem facing would-be gardeners: lack of land
  • Help reduce the backlog at community gardens
  • Improve food security in your community
  • Cultivate new friendships with like-minded neighbors
  • Fight climate change by reducing food miles and restoring carbon to the soil.

Our Market/Produce Sharing option helps people who want to find / buy / sell local produce. Think online Farmers Market, you will have the capability to Sell and Buy Fresh Seasonal Produce offered.

Our Service Sharing option helps people find and or provide Garden Services. And if you want to earn money helping others in the garden, we make finding customers easy. Alfrea’s helping hands can:

  • Garden-sit
  • Water and weed
  • Diagnose and treat pests
  • Design and build new gardens
  • Select and save seeds
  • Till, top dress and build soil
  • Build and manage compost piles
  • Lift and haul heavy things
  • Help with harvest and preservation
  • Teach you how to improve your gardening

Our Apartment Amenity offering connects apartment communities with land and services to grow their own food. We work directly with apartment management companies and owners to design and implement garden spaces in order to differentiate their communities.

Our Corporate Wellness Gardening for your Employees. We offer multiple packages, with services including:

  • Corporate campus garden design and implementation
  • Ongoing garden maintenance
  • Onsite and online workshops and training to engage employees
  • Delivery of locally grown items from nearby farms directly to your office
  • Metrics on employee usage

Alfrea can help. Would-be gardeners can find and rent a garden plot with a free membership; landowners looking to rent out space pay an affordable membership fee. Join for free today!


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