How to Start Seeds Indoors

As much as I want to get outside and start planting, Mother Nature has decided to go back to winter again.  Seriously, March weather in January and early March, and January weather in late February and early March – it’s so confusing!  At least I can control my growing conditions inside when starting seeds, and that is exactly what I’m going to do.

10 days ago I couldn’t help myself, and thought it was a perfect time to start up my new favorite broccoli, Artwork.  It is a gourmet, broccolini type plant, that has some major heat tolerance.  Even getting it started late last year, it handled the heat up until about the first week of August, then the aphids massacred it anyway.  The harvests we did get though, were super tasty and tender.  The thin stems felt almost stringless in my mouth.  At the same time, I am teaching my “All about Gardening” class and it was time to show the students how to start tomato seeds indoors with a Nanodome – they’d get to see 2 very different crops and how they germinate and grow.  Now, you get to see the results too.

I prefer starting seeds in either coco coir or peat pellets, so I decided to blend the two and use compressed coco coir pellets to start both crops.  A standard 10×20 tray will hold about 72 pellets.  I hydrate the pellets with warm water mixed with Seed Starter from Baicor.  It has a very mild fertilizer and some beneficial microbes in it to encourage seed germination and early vigor from newly sprouted seedlings.  Carefully, I placed the seeds in the center depression of the expanded pellets and covered the seeds slightly with the coco coir by pinching the top of the pellets with my thumb and forefinger – so easy!

The broccoli will germinate at 40 degree soil temperature, so I just covered it with a humidome, made sure the vents were closed, and placed the tray under a full spectrum light bulb (from Sunblaster, hands down my favorite type of indoor lighting) and kept it in a 68-70 degree environment (no natural light).  The tomatoes need more heat, so I place the tray on a heating mat, and covered the pellets with a Nanodome, which includes a full spectrum LED light (also from Sunblaster) and a much taller humidome with vents.  Be sure to close the vents, as it holds the right amount of heat and moisture to get the tomatoes to germinate in about 5 days.

The broccoli sprouted in 3 days, and the tomatoes took about 6.  After a week, i removed the humidome from the broccoli to help harden off the plants, but the tomatoes I leave the Nanodome on for the first 2 weeks or more, to get full germination and to build sturdy root systems.  Seven days after planting, I watered both trays with a combination of Kangaroots from BushDoctor and a mild mixture of Fertelixer from Seedlingers.  The seedlings literally jump up and down from the mix, boosting both root development and top growth.  It encourages the most amazing root growth from any product I’ve ever used, and encourages sturdy stems and leaves in no time. 

With a little time, and some help from the best seed starting system I’ve ever used (The Nanodome), my office at work, and my pantry at home, turn into the greenhouse I’ve never had the time to build.  In 2 weeks, I’ll update you on the seedlings continued progress, as we transplant the seedlings into 4” peat pots about 3 weeks from seeding.  It’s crazy how quickly I can have plants ready to transplant outside with limited space and no sunlight.  You too can feel successful growing those varieties you cant find anywhere, or just for the enjoyment of it.

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