Having quality, reliable seed starting equipment is a great way to ensure your seed starting success. Growers often consider trays, lighting, shelves, heat mats, and media when budgeting for growing supplies every garden season. Instead of buying single-use plastics that have to be replaced every year, we recommend growing in trays and containers that will last you multiple seasons.
Starting seeds indoors helps give the grower a head start on the season. Getting this head start is especially helpful in areas with a shorter growing season. Many varieties also have a higher success rate when started indoors versus direct seeded outdoors.
Another advantage to starting your own seeds is the increase in varieties available to a grower starting by seed versus having only the selection available at a plant nursery.
Finally, starting your plants from seed enables you to have complete control over the inputs used to raise them. Starting the plants yourself is the best way to ensure that your starts have been started with high-quality seeds and soil and have been grown in the way you prefer. For more information on seed starting indoors check out Seed Starting 101: Starting Seeds Indoors for Your Garden.
Besides the list of seed starting supplies needed to start the seeds, it is essential to consider ways to manage the growing environment. Fans, shelving, and watering equipment are vital gardening supplies for seed starting. You can easily find these items at your local hardware store or look into pre-built kits like this automated grow rack.
It is essential to manage moisture if you are bringing water into your house. We recommend using a dehumidifier in indoor growing spaces to keep humidity levels below 60%, with the ideal range between 40-50%.
Humidity domes help provide the optimal environment for newly sprouting seedlings. They preserve moisture levels to reduce the risk of drying out and they protect the seeds from pests like mice and insects. Humidity domes are a great tool for seed starting, but if left on too long, they can cause mold issues. Read more about how to correctly use a humidity dome in How to Use a Humidity Dome for Seed Starting.
The best containers for seed starting will depend on the crop, the quantity you want to plant, and the space you have allocated for the trays. We also recommend that you look for containers that are BPA-free and are made from food-grade plastic.
Cell trays are often used for those wanting to grow larger quantities as they can produce more plants in a smaller space. ReadSelecting the Right Seed Starter Cell Tray for tips on choosing the right size for your situation.
If you prefer to soil block your seed starts, you may want to try these deep mesh trays and 1020 deep without holes for bottom-watering. If you are wanting the air pruning benefits without the mess we recommend either trying this 6 cell plug tray with air pruning features or our 72 cell air prune tray.
There are three central reasons why starting your own plants from seed is preferable to buying transplants at your local nursery or big box store.
Heat mats are a valuable tool for speeding up germination and maintaining proper temperatures even in cooler spaces like a basement. Especially when it comes to heat-loving varieties like chile peppers and tomatoes, having a heat mat to warm the soil can mean the difference between a few straggling starts and a full tray of beautiful babies. Don't forget to get a thermostat controller to help you dial in the temperatures even easier when seed starting.
If you are interested in learning more about How to Use Heat Mats, be sure to give this article a read.
Anytime you will be growing a large number of any one type of seed using a cell plug tray is the most economical use of seed starting space. Cell trays are great for use with single varieties or a few varieties of the same plant type.
New seedlings need good light to grow properly. Plants that do not receive adequate light can become leggy as they stretch upward in search of energy for photosynthesis. At best, this results in seed starts that are tall and thin, at worst it can mean your plants fall over and become susceptible to fungal infection when they rest on damp soil.
The ideal grow light for any plant should be:
There are many options out there for lighting your seed starting space. Here at Bootstrap, we carry a 48” full-spectrum LED light fixture.
If you want to learn more about lighting options you can review this article on Lighting for Microgreens, where the principles apply to any indoor growing setup.
These indoor grow rack fans are used on our Automated Grow Racks as the included ventilation system. These fans are the perfect size for indoor grow rooms as they provide airflow without the risk of causing damage to tender seedlings. These fans are not high-powered. The gentle breeze also helps to strengthen plant stems and prevent overly leggy starts.
When searching for good potting soil, look for soils that are free from chemicals, have a balanced PH, and have optimal drainage. Some of the additives you will find in this type of soil are coco coir, peat moss, vermiculite, or perlite. We also recommend looking for a seed starting mix, either soil or soilless, that contains a light fertilizer unless you plan to use worm castings, compost, or a separate feeding fertilizer.
If you do not have access to a good seed starting mix there are a few ways to make your own.
For both of these, mix the ingredients well in a large container. Ideally, you should also sift the mix through something like a hardware cloth that has holes around ½ to ¼ of an inch to remove large particles before use. For exceptionally small seeds and fine particles, you can use one of our deep mesh 1020 trays as a sifter.
Because seedlings are delicate it is particularly important to ensure they have the best environment possible to begin growing. This means providing them with equipment that is clean and free from fungal spores and possible sources of disease.
All seed starting supplies should be cleaned before use and again at the end of the season before being put up for storage. For detailed information, you can read the article onHow to Care for Seedling Trays.
Lights and racks should be kept free of dust and periodically wiped down with a mild hydrogen peroxide or a vinegar solution to kill spores.