In my neck of the woods the growing season is a bit short. Zone 4 we have an average last frost date of May 15, and average first frost date of September 15. So to ensure we get a harvest from crops like tomatoes, melons, and peppers, we start our seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before our last frost date. Want to find out your growing zone? Check out this map: https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/
You’ll hear a lot about seed starting heat mats, grow lights, and seed domes from many folks. Every spring the garden section of every store is lined with seedling pots and all the “essentials”. YOU DON’T NEED THEM! All you really need is soil and seeds.
I like to see my germination rate before putting them in the soil. So I dampen a paper towel, lay out my seeds, fold them up, and put them in a Ziploc sandwich bag. I place them in a warm place, and in a few days we have lots of sprouts.
It’s all about recycling and re-using so we make our own planting pots. My favorite way is to use newspaper.
There is always free adds that are easy to get a hold of, or many local Diners will have a copy of the daily paper for their customers to read. Ask if you can take those off their hands when they’re finished with them. The pots are super easy to make and they can be tossed in your compost after you transplant.
Start with a single sheet, can be full spread or single page. I prefer full spread, just tends to be more sturdy.
Fold the sheet in half lengthwise. My kids love to help make these so I always call it hot dog style. Wet down with a spray bottle or wash cloth until damp all the way through. It’s not necessary but makes the next step a little easier.
Lay a form (glass, vitamin bottle, etc) at the top of the paper. Keep the form an inch or so above the bottom of the paper, and roll the newspaper up.
Fold the paper against the bottom of your form and press into place. ( This is when the damp paper pays off) Remove the form and set it aside to dry. You could also use paper towel or toilet paper rolls. Simply cut to size, add a few slits in the bottom and fold closed. If individual pots isn’t the route you want to take, save all your rotisserie chicken and strawberry containers and use them as mini seed domes.
Once your seedlings have sprouted, all they need is a sunny window. Plants like to reach for the sun so be sure to rotate them. Plant food isn’t needed until your seedlings have their first set of true leaves. There are many ways to “feed” your plants from prepared potting soil to feed sticks. Find what fits your budget and ethical practices.
Once the danger of frost has passed, you can harden off, (wean off filtered sunlight) and transplant. Happy planting!