By this time winter is getting to feel a bit old, but it’s still weeks before most of us can dig into our garden. So we reached out to Chris Bond, the Farm Horticulturist and Program Instructor at the Laura and Alvin Siegel Lifelong Learning Program at Case Western Reserve University Farm, to find out what items he’d recommend getting to help give those starting seeds at home a bigger boost.
Here are his suggestions:
Heating mat: These help to keep the soil and roots warm which encourages more vigorous growth.
Humidity Dome: The air in our homes in March and April is still on the dry side, by placing a humidity dome over seedlings, it not only provides needed humidity and moisture, but also increases the temperature within the dome via the greenhouse effect.
Variety labels: These might seem unnecessary, but so many people save the seed packet to identify the variety that they planted, only to lose it or have it fall apart after a few waterings and then forget what specific heirloom variety they are growing.
Seed starting soil: Again, seems obvious, but many people start their seeds in the same potting mix that they would transplant larger plants or pot up their annuals. Young seedlings need to be in a specific type of mix so that it achieves the proper drainage. Seedlings are much more susceptible to dying due to excess moisture than more mature plants.
Grow lights: I have experimented with many types, but the most user friendly grow light that I have found commonly available at most garden centers is the “Jump Start” grow system. The light can be raised and lowered like a blind, allowing the grower to keep raising it as the plants grow.
Want a few more tips?
By mid-March, all brassicae (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc.) can be seeded indoors; by early April, peas, chard, most root vegetables and most leafy vegetables can be seeded directly outside to get a jump on the season.