PLANTING SEEDS INDOORS WITH LIMITED SPACE
A challenge for aspiring gardeners and homesteaders who have very little space is starting crops indoors. If you live in a compact space, finding proper storage for seedlings can be a challenge. We also don’t all have spacious yards, let alone acres of farmland to be able to install greenhouses for endless seasons of growing.
However, we can still design creative ways to start seeds even if all you have is a 2’x2’ surface to get started. Until more space is available to us, we can use this time to learn how to nurture young plants.
WHY START SEEDS INDOORS?
- Significantly less expensive than purchasing plants at a store
- Plants you begin yourself are typically healthier than big box store plants
- Extends the growing season by giving you more opportunities to harvest your goods
- You can control what fertilizers and pesticides to use to ensure you and your plants stay healthy
- Protects seeds from the harsh environment outside
- Endless varieties of plants to grow
Among the many gardening lessons I was given last year, I learned that if I wanted to grow certain things, I had to start from seed indoors 4 to 8 weeks before the last frost in my region. I live in zone 7b, so I have to start seeds in February or March the latest. During my first season of gardening, I planted some seeds late, giving me either a short or nonexistent growing season.
This time around, I know better. So, I decided to try starting seeds indoors to not only save money but to also increase the variety of plants I could grow. To be honest, I usually have bad luck keeping plants alive in my house because I have just FOUR windows in my entire house and they either don’t get any sun or don’t have a windowsill. In the past when I’ve tried to put plants on the windowsill, they quickly became overrun with aphids and whiteflies.
Things have changed, however, and I have found a balance where I could at least have some success growing and keeping seedlings. Best of all, I didn’t need a window to do it. Enter my grandmother’s nearly antique phonograph. Since it needs to be repaired, it serves as a table these days and it became the central location for growing my seeds.
I already keep an Aerogarden on the phonograph, so I decided to experiment and use the light it emits as a makeshift LED grow light. Turns out, it works fantastically well. You don’t need an Aerogarden, however; there are tabletop LED grow lights available for a fraction of the price.
Plant your seeds in a quality potting mix protected by nursery pots, set them under an LED grow light, and all you have to do is water them until the weather improves.
I love this compact space in the corner of my living room. It is neat, out of the way, and I have enough room for 21 seedlings.
- A table or any surface space spanning at least 2’x1’ (I used my grandmother’s phonograph, which is 2’x1’)
- A tabletop grow light (I used the light from my Aerogarden)
- Minimum 2.4 inch peat pots or nursery pots (I used peat pots because they’re biodegradable)
- Trays to prevent water spills (I repurposed square takeout containers and an empty terrarium)
- Plant markers or tags for labeling seedlings (I use reusable ones that can be wiped off)
- Organic potting soil (I used a mixture of Espoma Organic Potting Mix and Coast of Main Organic Bumper Crop Soil Builder at a ratio of 2:1)
- Optional: Mini Grow Domes (I am reusing the ones from my Aerogarden. They produce a greenhouse effect by controlling the humidity and temperature for a successful germination)
HOW TO START SEEDLINGS INDOORS STEP BY STEP
- STEP ONE: PLAN WHERE YOU WILL TRANSPLANT YOUR SEEDLINGS The eventual location of your plants can change, but I find it helpful to roughly plan out your garden before choosing any seeds and plants. Will you transplant your seedlings into a pot or into the ground? What growing partners will you give them? How much space do you have for them to thrive? How much sunlight is available in your planned space? How many of each plant do you plan to care for? If you have a small garden space, it is a good idea to know how many plants you intend to grow and where they will grow once they have outgrown the nursery pots.
- STEP TWO: FIND YOUR GROWING ZONE – Every region has its own growing season. Becoming familiar with your growing zone will help you decide what plants will grow best in your area. Most importantly, you can predict the last frost date and begin planting your seeds indoors 4 to 8 weeks before this date, depending on what you want to grow. You’re lucky if you live in zone 8 and higher! You can grow almost anything!
- STEP THREE: CHOOSE SEEDS AND PLANTS SUITABLE FOR YOUR GROWING ZONE – I wish we could grow whatever we want whenever we want, but the beauty and reality of climate is that every region has its own natural characteristics that offer both favorable and unfavorable conditions for plants. For the best success, choose seeds that do best in your growing zone. Bonus points if you choose seeds native to your region.
- STEP FOUR: SET UP A CLEAN SURFACE WITH TRAYS AND AN LED GROW LIGHT – Your space should include an LED grow light, nursery pots, and trays to rest nursery pots. For comparison, my surface is 2×1.5 feet and I used an Aerogarden as my LED grow light. I also used peat pots as my nursery pots, and I keep them on plastic fast food containers that I repurposed.
- STEP FIVE: FILL YOUR NURSERY POTS WITH POTTING SOIL AND PLANT YOUR SEEDS – Fill each pot with organic potting soil and plant your seeds according to the directions on the package. I wanted to ensure my seeds germinated, so I added an extra seed for every pot.
- STEP SIX: TAG YOUR SEEDLINGS WITH PLANT MARKERS – Don’t be a numbnut like me and forget to mark your seeds―although I have gotten better at this! Tag your seeds so you can tell the plants apart and track the growth of your seedlings. If not, it will be weeks if not months before you can tell what’s growing.
- STEP SEVEN: WATER YOUR SEEDLINGS – Water you seedlings and continue to water them when the soil in your nursery pots begins to dry out.
- STEP EIGHT: WATCH THEM GROW – Some seedlings will grow faster than others, but it is fun to seebaby plants spring from the surface like a sign of hope. Once your last frost date has passed, proceed to transplant your seedlings into your planned space.
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