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Starting Indoor Seedlings
March 10, 2014

 

Spring is just around the corner and like most people, we are looking forward to some warm breezy air, sunny blue skies, and bright green grass. My family is also planning for our garden and flower beds. Gardening is a family affair that we all enjoy doing together. Growing flowers or plants from seed is less expensive than buying the fully grown product from the store, and it also is a simple and fun way for your children to learn another way to recycle and experience the joys of gardening from a very young age. Even Miles, my 2-year-old loves to help out and there is plenty for him to do. As we gear up to get ready for our gardening season, we have just begun planting some of our seeds indoors.

Both of my kids enjoy helping to pick which seeds to plant. Just keep in mind that some plants started from seed don’t do as well as others with transplanting, so encourage your kids to choose from a list of plants that should do well, including peppers, squash, pumpkins, basil, dill, lettuce, sunflowers, marigolds, daisies, and zinnias. If you are planning to grow fruits or vegetables in your garden that are tougher to start from seeds, you may want to consider waiting to buy plants and putting them directly into your garden. For example, tomatoes are easy to start from seed, however they take a lot of time, care, and attention. And others simply don’t like to be transplanted. For determining when to start your indoor seeds, Johnny’s Selected Seeds has a great tool to help.

There are many different ways to start growing seeds, including buying a readymade starter kit at your local gardening shop or using items that you have in your home already. If you want to recycle items, you can use cardboard egg cartons, yogurt containers, plastic salad containers, or similar items to plant your seeds—just make sure that you poke holes in the bottom of your containers for drainage and have a drainage tray underneath. This is a step that is easy for older children to help with.

Once you have planted your seeds, make sure you label them. You want to be sure to remember which plant is growing where. Have your kids draw a picture of the plant or write out the labels. Seed containers can be covered in plastic wrap to help keep them warm and moist. They should then be placed in a sunny window or placed under grow lamps. Next, you wait—which can be quite difficult for little ones. But you’ll be amazed at how excited your kids get as soon as they catch a glimpse of their first little sprout poking through the soil. Once you have sprouts, be sure to keep them moist, but not soggy. Watering is always one of our kids’ favorite gardening jobs to Just be sure that they don’t over water your little seedlings.

When your seedlings have their true leaves (usually the second set of leaves that look like the ones your plant will have all season) and are large enough, they can either go right into your garden or be transplanted into larger pots. In our area of the Lehigh Valley, we usually plant in our garden around the second week of May. Mother Earth News has some useful tools for helping you decide the best time to transplant seedlings into your garden.

Throughout this process, talk to your children all about the elements that are needed to grow plants like sunlight, warmth, water, and TLC. I find it’s also a great way to incorporate discussions about healthy eating. Check back this summer when I post a blog about getting kids involved in outdoor gardening!                                                                                                              

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