Organic Gardening

Growing Your Food – Why to Start Your Seeds Indoors

Learn about extending the growing season by using an indoor seedling rack. This post is part I of a two part series. In part I, we’ll be discussing why you should use an indoor rack to start your seeds, what seeds to start indoors and how to read the seedling packet, and why you should consider building your own rack.

Tray for starting seeds that have been planted. Labels indicate what is planted in the tray.
Seed Starting for 2021 Season

It’s time to start planting!

March is the month to start seedlings here in my area in New Jersey. We’re so excited to start planting in preparation for the upcoming growing season.

But wait, isn’t it too cold outside to start planting outside? 

You’re right! In my area, it’s too cold outside for us to plant warm weather crops. So we can start growing indoors by using seedling racks. If you’re unsure of when to start sowing your seeds, or plant seedlings if you choose to get your starts from the store, check out these posts:

What is a seedling rack

A seedling rack is a rack that’s used to start your seeds indoors. The rack can be made out of different types of material like wood or metal. Grow lights are attached to the rack to provide warmth and light to grow the plants indoors. It provides a vertical way to start growing your plants so they can be ready in time to be put outside for the growing seasons.

Why start your seedlings indoors

Growing seeds indoors allows a gardener to extend their growing season. Plants get a head start indoors instead of waiting until the weather is warmer and then planting.

What seeds to start indoors and seed packets

There are a number of seeds that can be started indoors. You’ll want to pay close attention to seeds that should only be direct sown (planting directly outside). Each seed packet indicates how they need to be sown. The pack notes whether to start them indoors, direct sow, or they can be started either way. For example, it’s not recommended that radishes are started indoors. Radishes are sensitive to having their roots disturbed. 

Here is a list of some plants that can be started indoors:

  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplants
  • Squash
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Brussel sprouts

So far we planted: tomatoes (Roma, San Marzano, cherry and grape varieties, and beefsteak), onions, and lettuce.

Why you should consider building your own seed starting rack

In looking at the seed starting racks that are available on the market, a majority of them are quite expensive. There weren’t too many options that would suit our needs, the space we’re dedicating to seed starting, or fit what we wanted to spend. These are all things that need to be considered when seed starting.

Usually you’ll see people start their seeds near a window. While that may be a good option to germinate seeds, it can be challenging to make sure the seedlings are getting ample amounts of light. Without proper light, plants can become ‘leggy’. ‘Leggy’ means the stem becomes long but it’s not very strong. This happens when plants are “reaching” for the light. Keep in mind that even if the seedlings are kept in a south facing window, there is a shorter period of light in winter and early spring. Most seedlings enjoy 12 to 16 hours of light. Additionally, windows can have UV-blocking and reflective coatings.

Are you going to be starting your seeds indoors? Comment below about your set up!

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