The first time I made soil blocks, I was really excited about what they could do for my garden. They were going to replace the need for a pot or container and make it so much easier to add extra plants when needed. What started off as a great idea turned into a complete mess in less than an hour. I had no idea how much of each ingredient I needed to create the soil blocks. I now know that making soil blocks is a lot like baking. If you don’t follow the recipe, it will not come out as expected and could end up in disaster!
The first step to seed starting success is choosing your potting mix or container garden soil. Here are some of my favorite seed starter products:
Although I do prefer making soil blocks now, sometimes it's not practical. For those times, I use seed starter kits.
There are many seed starting kits on the market. I've tried quite a few and have found that most are not worth the money. I like the kits with domes and heat mats.
The next step is choosing where you will start your seeds indoors. While many people use their kitchen countertops I prefer using my living room window but I also have grow lights in my basement when I need more seed starting space. Usually, this space is used for microgreen growing.
One of the most important steps to seed starting success is creating a greenhouse environment. When I use regular pots I place plastic wrap or cardboard over the top to hold moisture in until the seeds start germinating.
Once you have covered your seedling pots with plastic, place them in a warm spot. If it's cold where you live, consider placing the seed trays near a heat source to encourage germination. Not only will this keep seeds from drying out but it can also speed up growth time later on as well! This process is known as bottom heating. You can use these heat mats(which is well worth it in my opinion).
With all this done, now it's time to sow those seeds! I like to keep my seed starting mix moist but not wet. This allows the seeds to germinate and then as they grow you can back off on watering until it is time for them to go outside or into larger pots/containers. I prefer the self-watering method which makes it a lot easier on me.
You can use a spraying water bottle or even just pour water in your containers once every few days, depending on how humid of an environment you have created.
Now that we know how important creating an ideal environment to start our seeds indoors is let’s give those little beauties some TLC until they are ready for transplanting into bigger containers or directly into the ground...
The next step in creating successful seedlings and healthy plants later down the road is maintaining proper moisture levels during transplanting and after planting out in the garden. Too much water will cause mildew issues while too little will kill your plant before you know what happened! It's important that new transplants are watered well (enough where some water will come out the bottom if growing in a pot) and then left alone to establish themselves in their new home.
This is a very common problem when it comes to seed starting. If you start with good soil (not potting mix) and compost, your seedlings should be off to a great start! I like using homemade compost that my husband makes in his bin for growing microgreens inside during the winter months. It works well but if you don’t have access to this then store-bought will work just fine.
Making sure your seeds get enough sunlight while indoors is also very important to keep them under grow lights or near windows where they can receive sun.
Some people use heating mats to keep their seedlings warm while others skip this step. It’s up to you how much work you want to put in! If you're living in a cold area, I would recommend using a heat mat underneath your seed trays or pots if they are sitting on the ground indoors (especially if growing them under grow lights). Using too much electricity will increase your electric bill for sure so be careful not to go overboard with these things.
Seed starting success does take some planning and work but once done correctly, it should become second nature. With all that said here are my top tips when starting seeds inside:
- choose an ideal location for your indoor garden area - create a greenhouse environment with plastic wrap or a humidity dome - start with a good seed starting mix and compost - maintain proper moisture levels for your plants throughout the germination process
and after planting out - provide your seedlings with at least a little bit of direct sunlight or else grow lights will be needed to supplement the lack of sun indoors.
Best tips: Make sure that your seeds are started in a lightweight, organic, and pH-balanced potting mix. A good quality one will ensure successful growth. Seedlings need the perfect environment to thrive and it is important not to skimp on this part of the process! Start with coconut coir as an alternative to starter trays filled with traditional soils or mixes. It dries and holds water well and is rich in nutrients.
- Use pots that have drainage holes to avoid soggy soil - which can cause rot or poor root development. It will save you a lot of extra time during clean-up!
- The best tip we can give for seed starting success: don’t skimp on the light! Your seedlings need at least six hours a day, so invest in proper lighting if your windowsills won't cut it. Fluorescent shop lights are inexpensive and easy to install above plants making them perfect for this purpose.
If you are looking in the market for something a little more stylish, check out these options.
- Keep it simple and try simpler techniques like seed starting trays if this is your first time! It's not too late to start planting seeds indoors so get growing!
Does Potting Soil Expire?
Potting soil is a highly organic material that can break down over time. As it breaks down, the nutrients and moisture-holding capacities of the soil decrease as well. In general, gardeners should only use potting soils within about 6 to 8 months from their initial purchase date; you may want to make your own if this timeframe expires for your purchased soil before using up all of your supply.
If this point has passed and you still have some old potting mix around, there are ways to rejuvenate it:
- Add new soil to the old potting mix to rejuvenate it. This will increase nutrient levels and the moisture-holding capacity of the soil. However, you'll need more than just your original batch of dirt in order for this method to be effective. You can add one part seed starting or organic material (peat moss, compost) per two parts used potting soil then stir together thoroughly before adding back into storage containers. Don't reuse pots, however.
- If you have a high volume of soil to rejuvenate, add about a cup of dolomite lime and mix it in thoroughly with the potting mix before adding plants. This will help reduce acidity levels that can be detrimental for seedlings as well as improve water holding capacity if those levels are too low..
When using these rejuvenating techniques on your old potting soil, just remember to increase moisture by around 20 percent since this is what causes most problems within aged soils. Overwatering may cause other issues such as root rot or fungus/mold growth so keep your eyes open for signs of distress from your plants after transplanting them into rejuvenated dirt! The best way to test the moisture level of your potting soil is to squeeze a handful together. If it molds in your hand that's good but if it crumbles, it's too dry for seedlings.
We hope you all have a great gardening season! Let us know if this post helped you with any of your questions about seed starting mix.