During this time of wild uncertainty, there’s one event that has continued without complications: springtime. City living poses unique challenges for many of us - lighting and space being the most common - but you’ll be amazed by what you can grow with the right care and encouragement.
Seeds were my introduction to caring for plants. I bought my first packet at a nursery, and poured almost an entire bag of cilantro seeds into a glass jar with some random dirt thrown in. The cilantro shot up almost immediately, and then died immediately since there was no drainage and the seedlings crowded each other. Though the whole experiment was brief and unsuccessful, it sprouted a love for growing things that blossomed into a houseplant hobby.
Create a plan
The four growing seasons since my first attempt have been filled with great successes, unexpected disasters, and a whole lot of learning opportunities. My biggest recommendation for a successful growing season is to create a long term plan, especially if you are growing indoors. By not knowing where to plant my poor cilantro seeds, I lost the opportunity to see them flourish. When choosing seeds, make sure you look at the pouches to identify the pot size you will need for your plant to reach full maturity. Herbs require smaller pots than most vegetables and fruits, making them a good choice for limited space.
I’ve tried a few rooting methods, but I’ve found the most success rooting them in a smaller container before transitioning them to larger pots. You can create more plants during this process because you root fewer seeds - you have more attempts to root seeds successfully, and you can give the extra plants to friends. I plant my seeds in Jiffy Pot trays since they are biodegradable and can be planted directly into soil. You can also create similar pots using toilet paper rolls and napkins, which we created a DIY tutorial for in Rewild Homeschool!
I use seed starting soil since it’s less dense and promotes root growth, and I also like to start my seeds in a closed environment to control temperature and humidity. I use a plastic container with a lid, but I’ve had success placing my trays on cookie sheets and wrapping them in plastic wrap in the past too.
How to plant seeds
First moisten your potting soil, then place a small amount of dirt in each pot. Check the seed pouch to determine how deeply you should plant your seeds. Often smaller seeds can be planted closer to the soil surface, and larger seeds need more depth.
Sprinkle a few seeds onto your soil layer. The number of seeds planted will be determined by the size of your pot - the larger the pot, the more seeds you can plant. I typically stick to about 3-8 seeds, depending on the size of their final planter.
Fill the rest of the pot with soil, making sure your seeds are completely covered. Don’t press down the soil since the pressure can affect your seeds’ ability to germinate.
Water your seeds gently, and put them in your closed container or wrap in plastic wrap.
How to care for seeds
Use a small cup or mister to keep your seeds moist, but not wet. It’s easy to overwater or underwater seeds as they germinate, so you should be watering lightly almost every day. I also like to fertilize gently with a diluted liquid fertilizer.
Seeds require many hours of bright light, but you can use a grow light if your light is limited. The grow light timer should be set to 15 hours since the seeds require darkness to rest.
If you want to move your seeds outside, they will need time to acclimate to their new environment. This is called “hardening off,” and the process involves putting the rooted seeds in partial shade and keeping them sheltered from the wind. They can be slowly moved to their final home over 10 days.
Seeds are a great way to experiment with gardening, and there’s something uniquely special about watching them flourish into full sized plants. Appreciate the process, especially the challenges. We’re all growing, just as nature intended.