An unfortunate side effect of food production in our country is our dependency on plastic. From plug trays to irrigation supplies to weed mats and greenhouses, plastic is everywhere in agriculture. There is even a term for it – “plasticulture.” It’s not recyclable and it really piles up!
Plastic trays and pots are also hard for home gardeners to avoid if they buy their garden plants from retail chains or garden centers. Starting your own plants from seed can give you options for reducing, or even eliminating plastic waste from your Victory Garden.
Starting plants from seed is easy and fun. If you have a little space where you can grow your plants indoors until they can be planted outside, why not give it a try this year? Here’s what you will need.
Make sure to select plants that are seasonally appropriate and will work in our region. (Remember some of these tips about planning your Victory Garden.) A lot of people are buying seeds right now, so pickings might be slim or shipping might be slower than expected from a lot of seed companies. Purchasing locally, from companies such as Western Reserve Heritage Seed Co. or Ohio Heirloom Seeds, can cut down on those shipping times.
There is no reason to buy containers to start your seeds in. Used plastic pots from previous plant purchases, egg cartons, yogurt containers with holes punched in the bottom – anything that holds soil and drains water will do! Small containers are better for seed starting because it is easier to control the moisture in the top layer of soil, where your seeds will be. (For zero-waste seed starting, check out our video on making soil blocks by clicking here!)
Seed Starting Mix
Seed starting mix is different than potting soil because it doesn’t have any nutrients in it. Your plants won’t need nutrients right away because the seeds contain enough food to get them started. You just need a mix that will provide structure for the roots to develop and drainage so they don’t get water logged. I like Pro-Mix, but any seed starting mix will work. I also like to add a little compost to my seed starting mix to get my seedlings off to a healthy start.
Seeds don’t need light until they germinate, but you will need to keep the soil moist until they sprout. You can either water them gently when the soil starts to dry out, or you can keep them covered to prevent evaporation (just remember to check on them regularly!).
Once your plants sprout, they will need to be moved into the light. Unfortunately, even a bright window won’t give your plants enough light here in Ohio. Providing them with additional light doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive, though. A shop light with daylight fluorescent bulbs will work just fine.
As your plants grow, they will use up the food supply contained in their seed. The easiest way to provide nutrients to your growing plants is to repot them into a larger container using potting soil. If you buy a potting mix that contains nutrients (FoxFarm soils are fantastic if you can afford them), your plants should be happy to live with you indoors until it is time to plant them in your Victory Garden!
Have a gardening question? To submit a question to “Victory Garden Gurus,” email Ginnette at email@example.com. Ginnette Simko is Countryside’s Farm Manager. Maggie Rivera is the Agriculture and Natural Resource Educator at OSU-E, Cuyahoga County. She will also provide you an answer to your gardening questions in our next advice column. You can also consult OSU’s Ask an Expert online!