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Grow with KARE: Seed starting do's and don'ts

Gardeners are planting veggie and flower seeds indoors that will eventually be planted outside. Bobby and Laura have a do's and don'ts list to ensure success.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — DO plant in seed starting mix, not natural soil. As a general rule, go for a loose well-draining soil or seed starting mix when planting seeds. You want it to be able to hold moisture without getting soggy since too much water can cause the seeds to rot. 

DON’T rely on a sunny windowsill to give your seedlings enough light. It's probably not enough and it can be a chilly spot at night. Use fluorescent or LED grow lights and keep them a couple of inches above the tops of the plants. Move the lights up as the plants grow. 

DO plant seeds to the proper depth. Too deep and the seed will likely rot. The rule of thumb is to plant twice as deep as the seed size.

DO keep the seed starters warm. Most seeds don't need light to germinate, they need heat. Buy a heat mat, place them on top of a refrigerator or put them on your furnace until they sprout.

DO provide light after germination. 

DON’T forget to water. Use a mister, spray bottle or a small watering can with a rosette on it. Too much water will rot them or cause damping off. 

DO tamp down the soil into your containers or cell packs to ensure your seedling transplants well.

DON’T forget to moisten the seed starting mix prior to adding your seeds.

DON’T start your seeds too early. Plants really don't start to grow until the soil temperature is 60+ degrees. Starting them too early will lead to spindly plants, rather than compact like you want. Have patience.

DO harden off your plants before you transplant them. Give them a chance to acclimate to their new outside environment. Give them a little sun and outside time at first and increase that each day until they're ready to transplant.