If you’re anxious to start your garden before the frost has finished melting, we might have more in common than you originally thought! I’m notorious for pulling out the big basket of seeds well before it is appropriate to get them in the ground, and somehow I always manage to convince myself it’s not too soon to start sowing seeds well before our growing season begins.
With this hassle-free hack, you don’t have to worry much about your seeds once they’ve been sown. Simply sow them in the dirt, give them a good mist, and honestly you can forget about them, but what are the odds of that happening?
There have even been a few times when I didn’t quite forget about them, but I also couldn’t make room in my schedule to get to them in time, and they only impressed me more when I checked on them again.
No groundhog is needed here! These plants know their ideal growing conditions and will pop out to say hello when they are ready. Until then, they lie dormant in the soil. This means you only have to check on them periodically to make sure the soil stays damp as the weather warms.
Depending on the type of container you sow the seeds into, a greenhouse effect can be achieved and you’ll worry even less about maintaining a healthy growing environment.
This greenhouse effect is easiest to achieve with lidded containers with a spout-like shape at the top that allows the humidity to collect throughout the day and rain back down over the soil. Try using milk jugs or juice bottles for the best results.
To prep your mini greenhouse for planting, simply grab a few jugs from the recycle and get them washed up so that there is no leftover residue on the inside. Flip your container over and poke some holes in the base to allow excess water to flow out. This will ensure you don’t overwater your seedlings but does not otherwise affect the ability of the container to retain moisture and create that greenhouse effect.
It is so much easier to punch holes out before you cut the container through the middle, so be sure to do this step first! Once you’ve got your drainage holes prepped, use a box cutter to slice the center of the container. leaving about 1.5-2″ on one side to act as a hinge to hold the top to the base.
Start by sorting your seeds by season so you know exactly what you need to plant in the upcoming weeks. It is also important to note which seeds are cold-hardy, how long their total growing time is, and what time of year it is recommended to plant them. Most seed packets provide this information on the back, but Google is your friend if it is not already provided for your reference.
Once you know which seeds you’ll be sowing first, it’s time to gather your supplies. There isn’t anything wrong with sowing the seeds directly into the growing medium, but I prefer to know that the seeds are successfully sprouting before adding them to the containers. To keep an eye on them while they sprout, we’ll grow them in a bag before transferring them to the mini greenhouses. If you are looking to grow cold-hardy seeds outside, skip to step 6 as sowing indoors and transferring outdoors can cause the plant to go into shock.
- Run a paper towel under cold water before ringing out the excess moisture and unfolding the towel to lay flat. Eventually, the paper towel will be folded in half, so designate one side to stay blank in an effort to make step 3 a little easier for yourself.
- Once the paper towel is damp, sprinkle seeds of your choice, giving room to each one. Small seeds like that of lettuce can be difficult to evenly space because of their size, so grab less of these when you go to sprinkle them. This will give you more precision in where you drop them on the towel. If they are too close together now, it isn’t detrimental to their growth and they will be easier to separate when they begin to sprout.
- Gently fold the paper towel over itself to ensure the seeds are encased in the moisture. Slip the towel into a Ziploc bag but do not press the air out. You want a little fresh air in the bag to aid in the growing process but do refrain from blowing into the bag as your breath does not have enough fresh oxygen.
- Close the bag and leave it to rest in a temperate place that does not get any direct sunlight. While your seedlings need light to grow, direct sun combined with such a humid environment can cause unwanted mold growth.
- Once your seeds begin to sprout tails, you are welcome to transfer them to your preferred container. Typically I wait until I see the first set of leaves begin to form, but this is not necessary for successful growth later on. If the seeds sprout at all, they’ve got potential!
- Plant the seedlings so that their root/tail is face down. If no greenery is present, plant them no deeper than 1/4-1/2″ in the soil. Any deeper and they may be unable to poke through to the surface for light. If your seedling has greenery, make sure it is poking out of the soil with the roots completely covered.
- Once you’ve placed your seedlings into the soil you are ready to give it its first drink of water. Be sure that you only add enough to saturate the soil closest to the seeds. This method uses less water as the closed container will help retain moisture.
- Leave your new mini greenhouse undisturbed in a place where it can get adequate sunlight. This can be anywhere from a sunny spot in your room to being left outside to warm naturally with the new season.
You don’t have to pay much attention to the seeds once they have been moved to their greenhouse containers, but the same is not true for when they are in the bag. Although the first 24 hours won’t bring much change, you’ll need to keep an eye on them for a few days to note when it’s time to transplant. When they start showing green (or red for root veggies) it’s time to move on to soil!
If they are left in the bag too long, there’s a chance they won’t mind, but I have had some batches go moldy after ignoring them for too long. You likely won’t have any issue with mold once they’re in their larger containers as the space inside allows them to ‘breathe’ and cycle that air in a way that the bag cannot.
Your seedlings can get quite big before it’s time to transplant. It is important to keep in mind that plants can become too developed to transfer, as their existing root systems can be damaged in the moving process.
To avoid this, only plant your seeds a few weeks before you’re ready to plant. It’s okay to sow your seeds while there’s frost on the ground, but check your weather forecast or reference last year’s weather patterns to know when it might be safe to move them to their garden beds.
I typically start my seeds in time for them to grow another 1-2 weeks after sprouting. This way they aren’t too developed when I am ready to plant, but they can get some heft to them before they’re on their own.
Starting seeds ahead of the season doesn’t have to be overly complicated! I use this method in an effort to make the beginning of the season hassle-free and I honestly sometimes forget how many different varieties I’ll have growing at one time.