Seed Starting Basics: 30+ Questions Answered on Seed Starting Indoors - Digital Table of Contents

Posted by Gary Pilarchik on

I answers all those questions (30+) everyone asks about starting herbs, flowers and vegetables in doors under grow-lights. Questions like... How long do I leave the lights on? Can I use a window? When do I water? Do I have to start them in small cells? What is a seed flat? How do I use a heat mat? How many grow lights do I need? A great video for those of you just getting started in well... indoor seed starting.

Check out the video for more information and detailed answers. If you watch the video through my YT Channel and you can jump to each question you want answered, there is a digital table of contents when viewed . Here is the link https://www.youtube.com/user/pilarchik and subscribe while you are there. I'll be doing real-time videos all through 2019.

 

Over 30 Questions Answered

 

How high should my grow-light be place over the trays?

You should set the grow-lights about 2 - 4 inches above the seed starting trays.

 

When is light the most important to my seed starts?

The first 5 to 7 days from germination are the most important time. Intense light is needed to prevent the seedling from getting thin and 'leggy".

 

What kind of ratings should my grow-lights have?

Minimum ratings are 2100 lumens for light intensity and 5000K for light color. Great numbers are 2750 lumens or higher and 6500K.

 

How long should I keep the grow-light?

At germination and for first week, the light should be left on 16 hours and off 8 hours. After that you can start decreasing the lights to 14 hours and then 12 hours over a few weeks.

 

Why do my seedlings get tall and ‘leggy’?

Bottom line is the light is not intense enough and they are stretching to get closer too it.

 

When should I turn my lights on? Should I have them on before germination?

I turn them on before germination as you want to catch the germinating seedlings immediately with intense light. After planting seeds, I turn my grow light on 3 days later. Nothing really germinates in 3 days.

 

Can I use a window? Do I need grow-lights?

You really do need a grow light as 99/100 south facing windows don't provide enough light for seedlings.

 

Do I need direct or indirect sun in a window? 

Sun coming in a window must always be direct. That means the sun can always be seen by your seedlings. Light from the sun directly hits your seed starts.

 

What is seed flat and seed cell? (Different Shapes & Sizes)

Check the video out for this one. You just have to see them.

 

Do I need to start my transplants in small cells or can I use large cups?

It is all based on how much room you have to grow indoors and the number of plants you want to start. You can start in large containers or forgo potting them up from the smaller seed cells if that is what you prefer.

 

Do I need to use seed starting mix? Should I sterilize my starting mix?

I always recommend sterilizing your starting mix and using a seed starting mix. I find it really helps with germination and reduces problems.

 

Does sterilizing seed starting mix kill of the soil life?

It would, if starting mix had soil life. Seed starting mix doesn't have anything of value for your plants. It is just a seed starting medium. Sterilize it and add what you wish afterwords. 

 

Can I use outdoor soil to start my seeds indoors?

You can but this risk of bringing in insects, insects eggs, fungus and disease is quite high. There is not Nature indoors to combat problems.

 

Can I use dry seed starting mix to start my seeds or should I pre-moisten the mix?

Always pre-moisten your seed starting mixes. They actually float and absorb water slowly if you don't prepare the growing cells or cups with pre-moistened mix.

 

How do I set up my seed starting cells or containers for planting?

Check the video out for this one.

 

How often do I water? When do I water?

Check out the video for this one.

 

Should I let the top of my seed starting mix dry between watering?

It is a good idea to let the tops of the growing cells or cups dry. The video really explains this through examples.

 

Did fungus gnats come because I didn’t let the top of the seed starting mix dry?

Nope. Letting the tops dry helps reduce problems but it is not the cause. Fungus gnats lay eggs at the bottom of your starting cells too.

 

How do I water my transplants in the most efficient way?

Bottom watering in the tray is the most efficient way and the video describes the process.

 

Can I leave water in the bottom of the trays all the time?

You can let it sit for a couple hours while the seed starting mix absorbs it. Really after 30 minutes the mix soaks up all the water it can hold. Dump out the excess water or you can get root rot.

 

How many grow-lights do I need?

Again the video explains this thoroughly.

 

Should I use a timer on my grow-lights?

Absolutely 100%

 

Do I need to put fertilizer in the seed starting mix to start? What kind of fertilizer should I use indoors?

You don't have too. If you are you should use water soluble fertilizers at 1/4 strength or less. The video will explains why.

 

When should I feed my transplants? How much fertilizer do I use?

Water soluble fertilizer of your choice at 1/4 or less recommend strength. You can feed your plants about 1-2 weeks after germination. The video explains why.

 

What is the best temperature to start seeds indoors?

About 70 degrees F suits most seeds, if not all of them.

 

Do I need to use a seed starting heat mat? How long do I keep using it?

You don't if your growing area sits around 70 degrees F. Heat mats do speed up germination and can be shut off a couple days after germination if you area stays above 65 degrees F.

 

Should I label my seed starts? What is the best way to label me flats?

Unless you have a photographic memory... yes. The video describes a couple options.

 

What is plant acclimation? Will sun damage my transplants when the go outside?

Plants grown inside are not used to the sun's UV rays. They have to be slowly introduced or acclimated to the sun and the outdoors over about a 7 day period. Full sun can burn plant leaves when they have been grown indoors.


The Seed Company I Recommend is Everwilde Farms: https://www.everwilde.com/. Use the code RUSTEDGARDEN for a free seed pack. No 'THE' in this code.

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Digital Table of Contents: Click the time next to the question (You can find this active table of contents when viewing through my YT Channel)

0:15 How high should my grow-light be place over the trays?
0:38 When is light the most important to my seed starts?
1:00 What kind of ratings should my grow-lights have?
1:40 How long should I keep the grow-light?
2:05 Why do my seedlings get tall and ‘leggy’?
2:55 When should I turn my lights on? Should I have them on before germination?
3:40 Can I use a window? Do I need grow-lights?
4:30 Do I need direct or indirect sun in a window?
4:55 What is seed flat and seed cell? (Different Shapes & Sizes)
5:20 Do I need to start my transplants in small cells or can I use large cups?
7:50 Do I need to use seed starting mix? Should I sterilize my starting mix?
8:35 Does sterilizing seed starting mix kill of the soil life?
9:05 Can I use outdoor soil to start my seeds indoors?
9:50 Can I use dry seed starting mix to start my seeds or should I pre-moisten the mix?
10:15 How do I set up my seed starting cells or containers for planting?
10:55 How often do I water? When do I water?
11:50 Should I let the top of my seed starting mix dry between watering?
12:50 Did fungus gnats come because I didn’t let the top of the seed starting mix dry?
13:30 How do I water my transplants in the most efficient way?
15:00 Can I leave water in the bottom of the trays all the time?
15:55 How many grow-lights do I need?
17:05 Should I use a timer on my grow-lights?
17:35 Do I need to put fertilizer in the seed starting mix to start? What kind of fertilizer should I use indoors?
19:00 When should I feed my transplants? How much fertilizer do I use?
20:05 What is the best temperature to start seeds indoors?
21:25 Do I need to use seed starting heat mat? How long do I keep using it?
22:00 Should I label my seed starts? What is the best way to label me flats?
23:10 What is plant acclimation? Will sun damage my transplants when the go outside?
23:50 Bonus Tips and Answers

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  • You blog and videos have literally been a godsend. For years I have been fighting with fungi and fungus gnats. I’ve been following your tips and haven’t had a single one yet.

    Thank you!!

    Kelly on

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