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Charley's Greenhouse
17979 State Route 536
Mt. Vernon, WA 98273
Fax 360-873-8264

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Indoor Seed Starting

Sowing Seeds

Seeding in pot-paks and/or flats is most convenient. Sterilize all "used" pots, flats, and tools with Physan 20 (R3620) before you start. Use only sterilized starting mix to help prevent damp-off disease. (Mix very fine seed with fine sand, milled sphagnum moss or use a salt shaker for more even distribution.) Scatter a fine layer of dry starting mix over the top of your seeds. Use a mist sprayer with lukewarm water to mist seeds thoroughly. Cover your seed starts with plastic wrap or a propagation dome to reduce evaporation and maintain humidity.


Seeds need darkness, moisture and heat to germinate. Place in a dark, warm area. Do not let them dry out. Check regularly and mist with room temperature water. They already have enough food stored inside, so they do not need fertilizer yet.

Most seeds germinate best at a constant temperature between 70-80 °F. Check your seed packets for suggested temperatures. For accelerated, superior success, use a heat mat or heat cable under your seeds. Consistent warmth at the root level is the secret to producing strong, healthy roots quickly.

Seedling Stage

When the majority of the seeds have sprouted, move them off any bottom heat source and remove the covering. Place them 6-10" under a grow light. Most seedlings require 14-18 hours of light/day. To automate your grow light add a 24 hour timer.

Now is a critical time to keep your seedlings moist. Mist them with a warm water solution, diluted with 1/4 strength, organic, all-purpose fertilizer. Check them often. They should stay moist but not soaking wet. Take care to keep them out of any cold draft, which might damage the still fragile seedlings.

When seeds germinate, the first leaves to appear are called the seed leaves (cotyledons). These are usually a pair of oval leaves that bear no resemblance to the mature leaves of the plant.


A general rule of thumb is to transplant only after 2 pair of true leaves have grown. For larger seedlings, such as cucumbers or squash, however, plants are big enough to handle before the true leaves develop. Prior to transplanting, fill clean pots with pre-moistened potting soil. Make a small hole in the center of each pot to accommodate the transplant.

Removing tiny seedlings from the sowing container into larger pots is a delicate business! As seedlings stems are easily bruised, always handle seedlings by their leaves. New leaves can be re-grown, but not stems. Stems and roots are easier to separate when they are dry. To facilitate removal of the seedlings a tapered stick or narrow flat-ended screwdriver works. Use care not to damage the delicate roots. Where several seedlings are growing in a very small space, it is best to transplant a clump of seedlings and then snip off all but one or two.

After easing a seedling out, move it directly into its new pot, repotting at the same depth or a little deeper. Firm soil around the delicate root system while still holding onto a leaf. Water with a gentle spray of lukewarm water, diluted with 1/4 strength organic, all-purpose, liquid fertilizer. Put your starts back 6-10" under your grow light to continue maturing.

Hardening Off

Generally, your young seedlings can be planted outdoors approximately two weeks after the last expected spring frost date in your area. Plants grow at different rates, however, so check your individual seed packets for best recommendations.

Before planting outside into the ground, allow several days to gradually expose them to the outdoor elements. Set them outside in the warmth of the day, bringing them back inside at night, or place them in a cold frame.

When they are strong enough not to wilt in the sun or wind, they're ready to plant outside. A cool, overcast day is ideal to plant them out. Water them well after planted. A row cover or other plant protector can help them adjust to their new home and fend off adverse weather and pests.

Pots / Flats / Domes
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