- Thinning: Though it can be a bit heartbreaking, it’s important to thin seedlings as needed. Removing any weaker seedlings will allow the strongest plant to receive the most nutrients and continue to grow well.
- Potting up: When your seedling is small but has established its true leaves, it’s time to move them to a larger container. “Potting up” is moving your seedling to the next size pot. This will ensure the seedling will have room to grow, receive additional nutrients from fresh potting soil, and will not become “leggy” (long and skinny, straining toward a light source) or stressed in its original container. I generally hold off on adding any additional fertilizer at this point as the fresh potting soil should provide everything the plant needs at this stage and too much fertilizer can harm the delicate seedlings. Choose a container that is roughly 2” larger in diameter. Continue watering and light exposure as before.
- Hardening off: Once the danger of frost has passed, your plants will be ready to move outdoors. It’s time to ‘harden off’ your plants! Hardening off is exposing your young plants to a few hours of outdoor conditions each day for 7-14 days. This will prevent any plant shock from sun or wind that could potentially interfere with plant growth and success. You’ll want to start your plant in shade and gradually move into sunlight. Avoid windy days and temperatures below 45F. You’ll also want to reduce watering frequency but try not to let the plants wilt.
- Planting outdoors: Once your plant has acclimated to the outdoors, you are ready to plant! Remember to consult the seed packet once more for correct plant spacing, depth, light and soil requirements. Water and fertilize as needed.
- Or choose to enjoy your plants indoors!
Some plants such as herbs and microgreens do very well indoors. I like to keep some herbs for cooking (basil, cilantro, parsley) on my windowsill indoors year round for accessibility and also to protect the tender plants from outdoor pests. Ensure that you are giving your plants an appropriate size container and adding nutrients through a quality fertilizer as they grow. As the seasons cool, be mindful of light changes and potentially drafty windows. Now that you have the seed starting basics, you can start seeds anytime you like!
You did it! Each season is a chance for growth and learning so be sure to enjoy every moment. And it’s never too soon to start thinking about next year’s garden…
Botanical Interests: https://www.botanicalinterests.com/
Johnny’s Seeds: https://www.johnnyseeds.com/
High Mowing Seeds: https://www.highmowingseeds.com/
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds: https://www.rareseeds.com/
True Love Seeds: https://trueloveseeds.com/
Seed Savers: https://seedsavers.org/
Penn State Extension Seed Saving Basics:https://extension.psu.edu/seed-saving-basics