Starting your vegetables from seed is not for the faint of heart, but it can be really rewarding for those willing to put in the time and effort. The primary advantages of starting seeds are choosing from a wider range of vegetable varieties, having more control over the size and vigor of your plants, and saving some money. But don’t get too excited about saving money just yet – you’ll need to fork some over for the necessary equipment first.

grow-lightThe most essential purchase is your indoor grow light. Vegetable seeds will not get the light and warmth they need from your windowsill. You might get them to sprout, and maybe even get them big enough to transplant outside, but they will likely be straggly and weak at best. It’s more likely that the draft coming from the window will give them a swift death.

Instead, invest in a good four foot long florescent tube fixture, as a regular light fixture won’t due. One with room for two light tubes should be enough, although you can spring for a fixture that holds four tubes if you are building a seedling empire. The florescent lights stay cool, which means you can put them down very, very close to the top of your plants. That is key because they need to stay about an inch above the tops of your plants. Otherwise the light intensity drops dramatically. Keep the light on over your plants for at least 16 hours a day, or even 24 hours as I’m doing.

seed-starting-soilThe next item on your shopping list should be a good organic seed starting mix. This is a soil-less mix that is usually comprised of light-weight materials that make it easy for your plant roots to dig down and grow. The pH is balanced and all the basic nutrients are there for them to get started. Using regular soil means your seedlings may be contenting with weed seeds and the mixture will be more difficult for the tender new roots to get a footing in. So either make your own seed starting mix or pick up a bag from your nursery.

seed-potsTo start my seeds, I use a combination of newspaper seed pots and recycled plastic containers. You can also use things like toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, etc. Check out my tutorial about making your own newspaper seed pots using no special materials or watch my YouTube video.

The initial investment of a proper grow light and good seed starting mix will be worth it in the end. Your seedlings will be strong and healthy. You will also have a whole new world of wonderful seed varieties to choose from.

Are your seeds already growing inside? Which varieties did you choose to start this year?

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Written by Renee Wilkinson