Top 4 Supplies to Grow Healthy Garden Seedlings

Note from Naturally Loriel: Today’s informative post comes from Anna of Green Talk. If you’re into green living, gardening, and sustainability you have to take some of your time and spend it on her site. If I were you, I’d start with this garden hack that gets rid of squash bugs or learning about natural weed killers and what works. Thanks for joining us Anna!

Would you like to take charge of the food you serve your family? Are you tired of eating genetically modified, overly processed food?  Speaking from my experience, I find that there is nothing like growing your own delicious, organic food from seed.  Plus, growing from seed will save you money! Seeds cost pennies compared to buying organic produce.

Convinced? I thought so. Let’s get busy. Here are my top four gardening supplies to grow healthy garden seedlings and will lead you on the road to gardening success.

#1 Potting Soil for Seedlings

Seedlings need their special soil. You want to use a soilless mix. There are many soil-less potting soil mixes on the market, but I prefer ones that are OMRI approved for organic gardening and are free of:

  • peat
  • animal manure
  • feather meal (from poultry.)

Why peat-free?  Peat isn’t environmentally friendly.

According to Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., Extension Urban Horticulturist and Associate Professor, Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University,

“[t]his is a natural resource that accumulates at the glacially slow rate of 0.5 – 1.0 mm per year, or about ¼ of an inch. Peat harvesting involves the removal of deep layers of peat that have literally taken centuries to accumulate. In fact, since harvesting implies sustainability, it is more accurate to describe commercial peat removal as mining.”

Why purchase potting soil free of animal manure and hydrolyzed feather?

Under the National Organic Program, fertilizers and compost can contain by-products from animals. (Composted animal manure is regulated by the NOP.) Currently, animals can be fed an inorganic diet. Their manure or feathers could contain Round-up® pesticide residue from the animals’ consumption of eating GMO crops.

You can purchase the following potting soils:

  • Organic Mechanic’s Seed Starting Blend Potting Soil.  You can buy it HERE or at certain local stores. I have been using their potting soil for my transplants for years.
  • Dr. Earth’s Starter Fertilizer:  I use their fertilizer and love it. It does contain feather meal, but the Company assured me that their animal by-products were from organic sources .  You can buy it HERE.

If you are a do-it-yourself type gal or guy, you can make your own mix. Organic Gardening recommends using  the following mix:

  • 4 parts compost or vermicompost (worm compost)
  • 1 part vermiculite
  • 1 part perlite
  • 2 parts coir

You can purchase vermiculite and perlite at any garden store. In addition, your garden store may carry screen compost and coir. Just in case, you can purchase a brick of coir HERE and rehydrate it. Alternatively, buy bagged coir HERE. When looking for coir products, make sure they are low salt varieties.

You will reduce your watering needs if you add compost to your potting mix. But remember to purchase compost that was not created using animal by-products and tested for pesticide residue. Garden’s Alive tests its compost products. In addition, they also sell vermicompost (also known as worm casting.)

What do I use? For years, I used small peat pods since my system worked; however, this year, I will be switching to coir pods that fit my dome containers.

Once the first set of true leaves appear, I replant the seedling into Organic Mechanic Potting Soil  in leftover plastic potting containers. Find organic, non-GMO, heirloom seeds not affiliated with Monsanto here.

#2 A Medium to Grow Your Seedlings In

You can grow your seedling in many different mediums. Some people opt to use egg shells, yogurt cups, milk cartons, toilet paper rolls, and newspaper created rolls. Read HERE on how to use each type of container.

Also, be sure to read Loriel’s post on how to use cardboard egg containers to grow seedlings.

I find that my seedlings germinate better when I use a dome kit. Once the seedlings have emerged, I remove the plastic cover.  I have never had luck with newspaper or toilet paper rolls since I find that the seedlings dry out too quickly.  But this just might be my issue.

You can create a similar greenhouse using clams shell plastic containers or simply putting an old clear plastic bag over the containers. It won’t be as good as my dome kit above, but it will do the trick.

I grew turmeric using the old plastic bag idea.

***Warning.  Whatever medium you use, make sure there are ample drainage holes in the bottom; otherwise you will kill the plants.***

#3 Pots, Lights, Action.

I had very little success growing seedlings in a sunny window.  The seedlings start to look leggy and scrawny.  One year, I grew them in my kitchen under cabinet halogen lights, and they were as happy as a pig in mud. I used telephone books to start them near the lights. As they grew, I removed a book at a time.

Halogen lights provide heat. Seedlings love light and heat. If my seedlings are happy, so am I.

Once I discovered lights, I purchased a three-tier lighting stand from Gardener’s Supply. They offer a variety of different stands. My stand is crowded by the end of April since I grow both vegetables and flowers from seed.  (I am a little obsessed.)

Once I started growing with this light stand, you can’t pry it away from me.

You can duplicate this same idea by simply purchasing a T-5 fluorescent light fixture. If you want to build your light stand, there are a plethora of DIY grow light YouTube videos, but I found this video to be the easiest to understand.  Remember you want grow lights not just some ordinary run of the mill T-8 or T-5 fluorescent linear bulbs.

#4 Heat ‘Em up.

Lastly, you will need a heat mat. I find that it helps immensely with germination especially peppers, herbs, and other heat loving plants.  It isn’t a requirement but very helpful. I own one, and remember you will need a nearby electrical plug for the heat mat.

Final Words of Advice.

Start small, so you aren’t overwhelmed and check the back of the packages as to when you need to start your seeds.  (If you’re looking for a place to buy seeds that are organic, non-GMO, heirloom, and not affiliated with Monsanto, click here.)  You may need to start some seeds earlier than others.

So are you ready to grow your seedling?

Anna is the editor of Green Talk, a green living website that inspires sustainable and healthy choices for body, home, and garden. (Be sure to get her free gardening e-book.)  She is also a mom of four boys and avid (okay obsessed) gardener and built a green, non-toxic home ten years ago.

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