It's never too early to start planning for the season's vegetable garden! Join Tracy as she shares a ton of information about being successful in starting your vegetable seeds indoors. She talks about how to get prepared, what tools you will need, how to plant your seeds, and finally how to nurture your vegetable seedlings so you can have a successful harvest this year!!


Hi, good morning, welcome to Lurveys and another Quick-Take Video recording. Today, we're here to talk to you about seed starting and planning for your vegetable garden. I'm Tracy Vortis, Seasonal Color Manager at Lurveys. I work in the Des Plaines location.

So seed starting - there's some components of planning for seed starting that are very important. One of the beautiful things about starting seeds and not using a plant that's already been started by a grower is that you have a really big selection of what you can grow. There are so many different seeds that you can find in the store out there. For today's purpose, I'm going to kind of focus in on peppers and tomatoes.

For seed starting a bit of the planning that you'll need to do is think about first what you'd like to grow in the garden and then make a few selections of the seeds that you would like to grow and look at the information that's provided on the seed packet. It's going to help you to make your planning choices of when to plant. All of the seed packets have the information on the back that gives you the information that tells you when to start seeds indoors.

For instance, on peppers. This one is telling you to start your seeds 8 to 10 weeks before you're going to transplant them out into the garden, 8 to 10 weeks before our frost date. Our frost date in the Chicagoland areas, give or take, about May 15th. So 8 to 10 weeks from that frost date, you're going to work backwards on the calendar and that's going to tell you approximately when to start planting your seeds. If you do it too soon, you'll have tall, leggy, weak plants that have spent too much time indoors before you can get them out into the garden, which is really where they want to be. So about the end of March, you would start these pepper seeds.

There are so many different types of seeds you can choose from. Here's some different varieties of tomatoes. And like I said on the back has all of that information for when to start plants indoors. Some plants would prefer just to be direct sown and that information's on there. So if it says this seed prefers to be direct sown, that means you want to plant it right in the garden. Some seeds, plants that like to be planted in the garden or, for instance, squash plants. They don't like to be transplanted and handled. So it's better to just direct plant those right into the garden and it'll tell you when to do that - that's generally our frost date as well.

So I've done some preparation here to kind of talk to you about how to get your seed started indoors, let's take a look at that. You need a good seed starting soil that's important. Seed starting soil is a little lighter than your typical potting soil and sterilized; sterilized soil is very important for seed starting. You don't want to use soil that you've saved from other plantings. Start with a good, fresh, sterilized batch. The reason being this you can get different diseases that can hinder your seedlings, they are very vulnerable when they're in that small stage. So start with a sterilized soil.

I also have a couple of other components that we'll talk through. You need a nice labeling system. You're going to want to label all of your plants when you get them planted here.

I got a couple of different things that I like to use for showing how many seeds when you go to plant them, makes it a little easier. You're always going to use a waterproof tray and then something that sits down in it. These are your little seed cells that you're going to fill with soil. And a lot of them come also with a tray that sits on top. And that's important for seeds starting because it keeps the moisture in and gives you nice even soil moisture contact for germination. 

If you want to not start with this system and use peat containers or even make your own, for instance, with this product you can make the containers right out of recycled newspaper. So by using these different products, you're just going to fill them with soil. It's going to be similar to what you would do here. I just wanted to show you those.

One of the other components that you can use for this is once these get started growing, you can use them to transplant them into something that's a little bit larger like this before you get them out into your garden. So let's go ahead and get started. I'll show you from start to finish how to do this process.

So what I've done is I've poured a little bit of the soil down into a waterproof container. See, this is a little bit drier when it comes out of the bag. I like to always first seed starting pre-moisten my soil. The reason being is that it helps when you're putting it into the containers and I'll show you that when I get to going. So you're just going to add some soil. You're going to keep stirring this, add some soil, add some water. You're going to keep stirring it around until you get a nice consistency that kind of pat is easy to pack together, but water doesn't drip out of it when you're squeezing it. It kind of holds together a little bit differently than when you saw that to start with.

At that point then you take your seed starting trays and you're going to fill those up. Start with just adding the soil in, this part to me is very important. Once you get them like that, you could go and put them in and get your seeds in. But I always give it that extra little pack right there because that will give you a nice, strong root system once those seeds germinate. Then I top it off one more time, make sure you can see your little cells so that you know where your seeds have to go. Don't pack it too densely, it just needs a nice, good soil base for that root to grow into. Not too loose, not too dense. So then you would fill all of your containers, get all your containers ready, have all your containers ready for planting.

Another really important component on the back of the seed packet is it's going to tell you the depth for planting. That's very important when you're starting your seeds. So, for instance, this says planting depth a quarter of an inch. What I like to do to show me that is I take a ruler, I set it up here at the zero point and I mark the quarter of an inch [on a pencil]. So here is a quarter of an inch, that it's not very deep, not very deep at all. Some of them go as deep as a half-inch, but that's not much at all. So really, then I just take that [pencil] I make a small divot in my soil. I do all of them at one time, do all your stages together at one time.

Use a ruler to mark the correct depth on something like a pencil.

And now you're ready for planting your seeds. I like little things like this, instead of just trying to pour them directly right out of your package because it lets me see what I'm doing. I can see the seeds, I can see how many I have there. I'm not going to plant too many. I'm not going to plant too few. I like to put two seeds in every hole. Gives me some insurance, that way, if one doesn't germinate, you have a second one. If they both germinate, you're just going to pinch one of those off carefully without disturbing the one that's left. So you would take your two seeds, drop them down into the hole and I go through and I do each one. I got them all planted and then I come back and I just lightly press a little soil over it. all at the same time.

Then I use a small spray bottle to water. If you try to use a water cannon for this, it disturbs the soil too much so with a small spray bottle, I moisten them. Remember, we already pre-moistened, we don't want them to be soaking wet - we want them to just be nice and moist. You're going to moisten that, you have all your trays done. Then you're going to take your labels that you made with the same name as your seeds on it and make sure that you label those, you don't want to forget.

Now, this [label] is a little bit tall, I'd probably have to cut that off a little bit because this [lid] needs to fit right over it. You want this to fit right over it so that it keeps the moisture in. You may get some moisture that builds up inside there. You can simply just tap it down, check it every day or so, make sure it hasn't dried out. If it's getting a little dry on the top, just use your spray bottle again and moisten it.

So those are some of the really important components. Make sure that your labeling and look at all the information on your seed packets.

I want to talk to you about one other thing that can be kind of important. Seeds typically like to germinate at about 70 degrees is the perfect temperature for them. If you're doing your seeds in a heated room in the house, a kitchen, or a room that typically stays pretty consistent in temperature, it might take a little bit longer for your days-to-germination, which is also listed on the back of your seed packet. So watch that, it's fun to watch and then see them germinate. It may take a little bit longer if you're just doing them without a heat pad, but if you use a heat mat, a seed heat mat at a consistent 70 degrees, it'll be pretty true to germination days. And the other reason you would want to use that is if you're doing it in like a spare room, maybe an extra bedroom or down in the basement, that might be a little bit cooler, a room that's a little bit cooler than a normal 70 temperature. This will give you some added insurance that you don't start to rot your seeds before they germinate. So that's kind of important.

We've talked about all the different components of getting your seed started and then your days to germination, which it tells you on the back of the package. Once that happens, you need to start to introduce light to the plant. At this point, there's no purpose to introduce light to the plant other than normal light in the room but after they germinate, it's important for them to get good light. So I'm going to talk a little bit about that, I'm going to show you some of the products that are really good for helping you keep nice, strong plants.

So now, like I said, we're going to talk about the stage of adding light. Once your seeds have germinated and you see the plant comes up above the soil, that's when the plant now really needs a good amount of light. If you're just putting your seedlings on a windowsill (south-facing is best), make sure that you're rotating them. Remember, they're going to start to move towards where the light is the best. One of the nice things about having Grow Lights for your plants is that you can control it, you have a little bit more control over it.

There's a lot of different setups that you can choose from, I'm going to show you a couple here that we like. This is a component where it's a stand you by the light, separate the stand, holds this. It has the components down below. This is a setup where it's all together. You have your tray in the bottom, you have the light that is on the stand, that's adjustable, and being adjustable is extremely important when you're starting seeds.

Universal Strip Growlight Stand

When the plant germinates, you want the seed right down really close to it, not touching it, but very close to it. And as that plant begins to grow, you continue to move the light up, move the light up as the plant grows. You just keep moving the light up with the plant and that'll give you a nice, sturdy, stalky plant. If the light is too high, the plant wants to reach up to it and it starts to stretch and get a little bit leggy, so that's very important.

Adjustable Growlight Garden

Another thing that's important with Grow Lights is that you need to use a cool light that's designed for growing seedlings. If you use other lights, like shop lights, they're heat generating. You can't use a heat-generating light for your seedlings, you'll burn them. This is one of the very important steps of growing seeds indoors - is being able to introduce the light once they've germinated.

So there is a couple of the steps that will help you to plan your vegetable garden and starting your plants by seeds. There's nothing more rewarding than seeing it from start to finish, to see the seeds, to grow the plant yourself, get it in the garden, and then harvest the fruit. The whole full circle is absolutely satisfying. Give it a try, it's pretty simple!

Thanks for joining us and I hope you enjoyed the information. Remember, we're here to help. If you have any questions, join us. Give us a call, check out our website, and don't forget to follow us on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram

Thanks again for joining us. Have a great day.