A: Growing plants from seed is one of the most satisfying gardening projects, although it may be frustrating. Given the roller coaster temperatures during our season changes, starting seeds takes planning. Even nurseries with large greenhouses have to prepare and monitor their seedling crops closely.

Pick the right seed for the right season. It’s about time for herbs like basil; just be prepared to keep pots in a warm location until any chilly nights pass.

It’s best to plant seeds directly into clean individual pots. Moving seedlings grown in a group pot can be difficult as you don’t want to damage roots. Single pots make it much easier to transplant. You can recycle and use paper egg cartons or shaped newspaper pots for seedlings which can be planted entirely into the garden. When washing old pots, soak in a 10% bleach/water solution and air dry.

Choose a soilless potting mix which should be sterile. Shriveled seedlings often indicate damp-off, a fungal disease that kills seedlings, and easily spreads with splashes during watering. To prevent problems, use a spray that has one tablespoon baking soda in one gallon of water, with a dash of dishwashing soap.

Moisten the potting mix first, add seeds to the surface and sprinkle with the slightest amount of fine mix. We often fail with seeds by planting them too deeply. Keep them in a shady area where you can moisten the soil surface regularly with a mist bottle or fine hand wand.

Now comes the anticipation and excitement as new plants emerge from the soil and are ready to enjoy in your garden.

Suzzanne Chapman
Author: Suzzanne ChapmanEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Suzzanne Chapman, retired botanical collections curator at Mercer Botanic Gardens, promotes organic gardening, growing native plants, and protecting the environment. Send your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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