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Guide to growing vegetables and flowers from seed

There are many ways to start seeds, but a seed-starting system, such as the GrowEase Seed Starting Kit ensures good results.Growing plants from seed is a great way to start gardening earlier in the season. With the right light and some simple equipment, it’s easy to grow from seed to harvest.

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Because each plant has unique seed-starting requirements, it helps to start small by growing just a few varieties. Some seeds — such as tomatoes and marigolds — are especially easy to start indoors. If you’re a beginner, choose those first, and then move on to more fussy seeds, such as petunias.

Six Steps, from Seed to Garden

1. Find the right containers: You can start seeds in almost any type of container, as long as it’s at least 2-3" deep and has some drainage holes. I prefer the convenience of trays that are made especially for seed starting. It’s easy to fill the trays, the watering system ensures consistent moisture and I can move them easily.

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2. Prepare the “potting soil”: Choose the potting soil that’s made for growing seedlings. Do not use soil from your garden or re-use potting soil from your houseplants. Start with a fresh, sterile mix that will ensure healthy, disease-free seedlings.Remember that most mixes contain few, if any, nutrients, so you’ll need to feed the seedlings with liquid fertilizer a few weeks after they germinate, and continue until you transplant them into the garden.

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3. Start planting: Check the seed packet to see how deep you should plant your seeds. Some of the small ones can be sprinkled right on the soil surface. Larger seeds will need to be buried. For insurance, I plant two seeds per cell (or pot). If both seeds germinate, I snip one and let the other grow. It’s helpful to make a couple divots in each pot to accommodate the seeds. After you’ve dropped a seed in each divot, you can go back and cover the seeds.

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4. Water, feed, repeat: As the seedlings grow, use a mister or a small watering can to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Let the soil dry slightly between waterings. Set up a fan to ensure good air movement and prevent disease. I use a fan that’s plugged into the same timer as my grow lights. Remember to feed the seedlings regularly with liquid fertilizer, mixed at the rate recommended on the package.

Good-quality “potting soil” for seed starting doesn’t actually have any soil in it. This sterile, free-draining mix is perfect for seedlings.

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Move seedlings outdoors gradually: It’s not a good idea to move your seedlings directly from the protected environment of your home into the garden. You’ve been coddling these seedlings for weeks, so they need a gradual transition to the great outdoors.

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The process is called hardening off. About a week before you plan to set the seedlings into the garden, place them in a protected spot outdoors (partly shaded, out of the wind) for a few hours, bringing them in at night. Gradually, over the course of a week or 10 days, expose them to more and more sunshine and wind. A cold frame is a great place to harden off plants.

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