Starting flowers from seed is an easy and cost-effective way to get your garden blooming with beautiful colors and fragrances. While it may seem daunting at first, with the right equipment and some patience, you can successfully start your flowers from seed under grow lights. Here’s how:
- Choose the right equipment. To start flowers from seed under grow lights, you’ll need a few key pieces of equipment. First, you’ll need the grow lights. These are specialized lights that provide the right spectrum of light for plant growth. You can choose from a variety of types, including fluorescent, LED, and high-intensity discharge (HID) lights. Make sure to choose a light that’s appropriate for the size of your growing area and the types of plants you’ll be growing. LED lights are the most energy-efficient type but the initial cost may be a tad higher. You will also need a timer to turn the lights on and off automatically.
- Next, you’ll need containers to hold your seeds and soil. You can use anything from plastic seed trays to recycled containers like egg cartons or yogurt cups. Just make sure to poke drainage holes in the bottom of each container so excess water can escape.
- Then, you’ll need a good quality seed starting soil. This type of soil is specifically formulated to provide the right nutrients and drainage for seeds to sprout and grow. You can buy seed starting soil at most garden centers or online.
- Choose your seeds. Once you have your equipment ready, it’s time to choose your seeds. There are a wide variety of flowers that can be started from seed, including annuals and perennials. Some popular choices include marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, and sunflowers. Choose seeds that are appropriate for your climate and the amount of sunlight your growing area will receive.
- Start your seeds. Fill your containers with seed starting soil, leaving about 1/2 inch of space at the top. Moisten the soil with a spray bottle or by pouring water gently over the surface. Then, plant your seeds according to the instructions on the seed packet. Most seeds should be planted about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Cover the seeds with soil and press down gently.
- Time your seed starts. If you live in a climate with frost like we have at Blue Gables, count backward from your last frost date — May 10 in Clarksville, Maryland — to determine the proper date to start various seeds. Each seed’s germination time and growth rate will vary. Refer to the seed packet to determine the proper lead time. We start some seeds, like lisianthus, in February, but most of our starts are on March 1.
- Set up your grow lights. Once your seeds are planted, it’s time to set up your grow lights. Hang the lights above your containers, making sure they’re positioned at the right height for the size of your plants. Keep them about 2 inches above the plants and raise them as the plants get taller, unless you want to “stretch” your plants taller, in which case you will want to keep the lights 6-8 inches above the plants. Most seedlings need about 14-16 hours of light per day, so set your timer accordingly. Be careful, allowing your plants to grow too close to the lights may cause burning.
- Water and fertilize your seedlings. As your plants start to grow, they’ll need regular watering and fertilization. Check the soil daily to make sure it’s moist but not waterlogged. Use a spray bottle or watering can to water gently from above, being careful not to disturb the seeds or young seedlings. Once your plants have a few sets of leaves, you can start fertilizing them with a diluted liquid fertilizer. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package for best results.
- Transplant your seedlings. Once your seedlings have a few sets of true leaves, it’s time to transplant them into larger containers or out into your garden. Carefully remove each seedling from its container, being careful not to damage the roots. Then, plant each seedling in a new container or in the ground. Water well and continue to monitor and care for your plants as they grow.
Starting flowers from seed under grow lights is a fun and rewarding way to get your garden started. With the right equipment and a little patience, you’ll soon be enjoying beautiful blooms and fragrant flowers all season long.