Jill Jesiolowski Cebenko discusses starting seed indoors and what type of seed starting equipment you will need for the job.
Learn about the basic seed starting equipment you'll need when starting seed indoors for early blooms and cropping.
Seed-starting mix — Because young seedlings are prone to damping off diseases (see below), you'll get better results if you start your seeds in a commercial seed-starting mix. (Regular potting mix or garden soil usually won't work as well.)
Cell packs — These are small plastic containers that have "cells" about 3 inches deep with drainage holes in the bottom. Some may have six cells, while others have only three or four. You can buy new cell packs, recycle used ones, or use yogurt cups or other containers (add plenty of drainage holes).
Labels — Recycled, lead-free miniblinds or cut-up yogurt cups make great labels.
Plastic trays — Also called flats, trays without drain holes are the best way to corral a bunch of cell packs. Water them efficiently by pouring water into the tray. (If you water the cellpacks from the top you may disturb small seeds.) Drain off any excess water after the containers have absorbed all they can.
Plastic cover — Plastic wrap or the special clear plastic covers sold with plastic trays will help keep seeds moist so they'll sprout. Remove the covers as soon as the seedlings are up.
Lights — Insufficient light will cause your seedlings to stretch and develop weak stems. The best way to assure plenty of light during the still-short days of spring is to grow your seedlings under fluorescent lights, for about 16 hours per day. Standard "cool white" tubes in inexpensive, 4-foot, shop-light fixtures work really well. Keep the seedlings just an inch or two below the lights.
Liquid fertilizer — Use diluted liquid organic fertilizer: A fish/seaweed blend or homemade compost tea works well.
Pots — You'll need these to plant larger seedlings in as they outgrow the cell packs. Pots that are about 4 inches across work great for most plants as the next step up from cell packs.