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I never used to start seeds indoors. For nearly 20 years of gardening. You need equipment which requires either money or DIY chops (neither of which I have). You need time and a certain degree of obsessive compulsive tendencies to keep the seedlings healthy. I started what I could direct, and bought nursery starts for the ones I couldn’t.

Talk about expensive. Once you’re planting 25 tomato plants you really have to start them yourself from seed.

I first got into seed starting about 6 years ago when I found out about winter sowing. Winter sowing is a great way to get into seed starting. Somehow, you don’t feel bad when they don’t germinate, since winter sowing is really just direct sowing in a container.  I started my alpine strawberries (which you supposedly can’t start from seed) this way. Great instructions for this method are here.

Of course, once you’ve seen those seeds growing in a container, you get the bug, and you start to think, hmmm, I could probably try a couple of tomatoes.

Yeah. That’s one slippery slope.

Over the past few years I’ve now acquired 4 heated seed mats and a collection of can lamps and shop lights that service the equivalent of about 10 flats. I grew 80 tomatoes last year, most of which I donated to the Peterson Garden Project plant sale. I’m able to start seeds for my friend Kelly’s seed bank.

I’m not going to tell you how to do it, other than to say make sure you use sterilized containers (I reuse everything, so this is important), use a seed starting medium rather than compost or potting soil (it really makes a difference), and keep a fan blowing in the room, to discourage damping off. Go ahead and start more than you need–you’ll either learn to discard the ones that don’t thrive, or better yet you’ll find a plant sale like I did, or like my friend “creme” on MyFolia, you’ll start your own to help fund the whole enterprise. You don’t need that much space, either. Last year I ended up with more than 200 seedlings in 4″ pots, from flats that fit on a large trestle table.

Once you get past the fear (remind me, what was I afraid of?) it’s the best thing in the world to see those seedlings peeking through when it’s still cold and snowy outside.

Were you afraid to start seeds yourself? What gave you the push down that slippery slope?

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