Do you want to get a head start on the growing season? Grow varieties that are tricky to grow outdoors in the Eastern Ontario climate/soil? Save money when you have a large crop to grow? Have better control over the conditions of growth (temperature, care, products)? No matter the motivation, starting seeds and bulbs indoors is a popular and effective option for many home gardeners. Let’s explore the basics of growing indoors so you can get started!
First Off – Let’s Talk Terminology
Seeds come from plants after they flower. They are the plant’s unit of reproduction, and can develop into another such plant. Seeds come in a variety of sizes and colours. Cuttings (or slips) come from the mother plant and are planted in a growing medium. They will grow roots and produce a new plant. Bare root perennials are root masses stored in peat moss. They do not have any food stored within and need to be fertilized. Seeds, cuttings, and barefoot perennials need to be fertilized. Bulbs are essentially food storage containers for plants. Everything needed to grow the plant is stored directly in the bulb. Scarifying is a means of softening seed shells by scratching or cutting the seed to encourage germination. Stratification is the act of preheating or chilling seeds before planting to encourage germination.
All plantings need fertilizer to grow, except for bulbs. Use a transplanter/starting fertilizer at half the recommended rate of dilution after seedlings have reached the three-leaf stage. Use a transplanter as soon as you plant the roots for bare root perennials.
Dealing with Complications
Damping Off Damping off is a disease common in seedlings in early development where a spindly stem blackens upon contact with the soil. Damping off causes seedlings to break and die, and can happen very quickly, often in less than a day. The cause is typically excess moisture and/or poor ventilation. There is no treatment, so the only option is prevention. In order to prevent this disease, do not overcrowd the seedling trays – this allows better ventilation. Also ensure that the growing medium has optimal moisture levels. Spindly/Thin Plants This is a sign of insufficient light – your plants will grow tall in search of light. Use a light unit with a full spectrum of light so your seedlings develop normally. Ask one of our gardening experts for recommendations, and remember to place your seedlings in the area of your home with the best light exposure. White Fungus White fungus (powdery mildew) is a sign of high humidity and/or poor ventilation. The prevention is the same as preventing damping off: do not overcrowd seedling trays and do not overwater the growing medium. Do not use Tap Water Tap water is too cold and can chill seedlings. Let water warm to room temperature before watering seedlings, potted perennials, and bulbs. For seedling trays, immerse the tray in tepid water and let drain. Best of luck with growing indoors! If you have any questions, would like to buy seeds or bulbs, or are in need of gardening accessories, Ritchie Feed & Seed is your one-stop shop! We are Eastern Ontario’s favourite choice for gardening and have convenient locations in Ottawa, Stittsville, Richmond, Brockville, Winchester.