Here are the basics needed for growing your own seeds:
Soil - Start with sterile materials, including the soil. Use a soil mix for starting seeds. It will be finer and without fertilizer. We carry 8 qt and 16 qt bags of starter soil, as well as peat pellets (which are a lot of fun to watch "grow"). As the seedlings grow, you will transplant them into a coarser potting soil with fertilizer until it is time to plant them in the garden.
Moisture - Once a seed is moistened, it must stay moist until the seedling has emerged from the soil. If the seed is allowed to dry out during this time, it usually kills the seed. Covering the seed with soil also helps but only with large seeds (tiny seeds should not be covered). Some people mist the soil several times a day or the tray can be covered with plastic wrap. Whatever method you use, be ready to uncover or slow down on the misting as soon as the first leaf emerges from the soil. As the seedlings grow, the moisture level should decrease gradually to the point that, once the seedling is transplanted and established in it's new pot or pack, it should actually wilt between waterings.
Heat - Most seeds need to be germinated at 70 - 75 degrees. The top of a refrigerator or other appliance may be the perfect place. If this temperature is not available, some seeds grow slower and some may not germinate at all. Decrease the temperature a few degrees once the seed is up. When hardening off the seedlings, even cooler temperatures will be necessary.
Timing - The one mistake most growers make is starting seeds too early. Count backwards from the date you plan to plant outside to the number of weeks the seed package says it will take. Take notes so you can make adjustments from year to year.
Growing the seedlings on - Bright sunlight, cooler temperatures, and drying between waterings are three necessary factors in growing healthy seedlings. Once transplanted, you will continue with the bright light and allow the soil to dry even more between waterings. When outside temperatures are warm enough, set the seedlings outside (in the shade and out of wind) for a few hours at a time. After a few days of this, increase the light and wind exposure until they are used to the same conditions that they will have once planted in the ground. This process is called hardening off or conditioning.
We carry all the supplies necessary for starting your own seedlings and many are available on this website.
At Longfellow's, we are experts in growing seedlings - it's what we do. Let us know if we can help you. Custom growing services are also available.