The Secrets of Seed Starting Success

Published by Bucks Country Gardens in Lawn & GardenPlants

There are few gardening experiences I find to be as rewarding as gardening from seed. To take a small, dormant capsule of life and unlock its culinary or aesthetic potential is amazing! One of the seed varieties we carry at the garden center is Botanical Interests, and they give you a “How-to Sow Guide” on every packet.

Whatever your motivation is for starting seeds indoors, the process can be fun and simple. After you understand what factors influence a seed, you’ll be able to create a formula for success and then repeat it again and again.

First, it helps to understand what a seed is–it is the embryo of a plant. Seeds respond to water, light and temperature. When a seed is planted and then permitted to grow in the right environment, you will then have healthy plants that can be moved outdoors and into the garden. As nature takes over, they will grow bigger and stronger and eventually reward your efforts with a bounty of fresh veggies, herbs, flowers and more.

Second, making good choices for soil and containers will help you grow a strong plant, enabling them to live a healthy and productive life. The garden center carries a large selection of containers to use to start your seeds. One of my favorites are peat pots, which are made from Canadian peat moss and wood pulp and are 100% biodegradable. They make it easy way to grow great plants and also help to reduce the number of plastic containers ending up in our landfills. Choose a high quality seed starting mix for your soil. Espoma Organic Seed Starter or peat pellets, which have compressed peat moss in them, are both great choices. But, DO NOT use soil from outside: it can harbor microorganisms and pathogens that, when taken out of the balance of nature, can harm or kill your vulnerable seeds. The right seed starting mix allows for a moist, but not soggy, environment with the right combination of air and water to promote germination.

Next, light exposure is one of the most important factors to creating a healthy, strong seedling. Give your seedlings at least 14 hours of light, real or artificial. In the winter months, since daylight is less than 12 hours a day, natural lighting can be supplemented with the use of grow lights.

Temperature is the factor in the life of a plant, especially germination, which governs the rate at which things happen. Normal household temperatures are usually within the range that encourages germination in a vast majority of commonly grown plants.

The final factor to figure in when creating seedlings from seed is water. There is more water in a plant than any other constituent and so the way you apply it becomes one of the most important factors in determining the overall health of your seedlings. When a seed comes in contact with water it begins to absorb it. This signals to the plant that it is time to come out of dormancy, germinate and grow. Consistent moisture is vital. Water your plants from the bottom and into a tray with no holes. The plant will absorb the water as needed.

Now that you know what a growing seed requires you can try starting some, or all, of your garden seeds indoors. The best place to start is to get your seed packs right here at the garden center. The back and inside of the packet contains all the information you need to plan your garden and start your seeds.

Here are a few handy sowing guides from Botanical Interests…For Veggies & Herbs click here:  For Flowers & Ornamentals click here:

If you’re in the mood for cooking, try this tasty recipe from Botanical Interests’ From Seed to Saucepan. I did and it was dee-licious!

Root vegetables are a winter staple in most of the country: they are nutritious, comforting and an essential part of nearly every worthwhile stew. But the next time you are looking for a sidekick to your stick-to-your ribs entree, or a healthy snack for your kids, push aside the worthy potato and consider parsnip and carrot fries. They’re cousins to each other, each with their own sweet and nutritious kick. Parsnips, though less exciting in appearance, actually contain more vitamins and minerals than carrots, particularly when it comes to potassium. Plus they’re a great source of fiber. And when you roast them slowly with a touch of olive oil and sea salt, the natural sweetness intensifies, just as it does with carrots. The kids may never know they’re eating something good for them!

I also made a horseradish dipping sauce to go with them, kicking it up a notch. You can do any seasoning you like or sauce for dipping.

Roasted Parsnip & Carrot “Fries”


3 large parsnips

3 large carrots

4 tbs olive oil (use more or less for taste)

2 tsp kosher salt


1. Preheat oven to 375˚ F

2. Peel parsnips and carrots, slice into 1/3” strips

3. Place parsnips and carrots in a large bowl and toss with olive oil and salt

4. Spread coated vegetables on a large cookie sheet in a single layer

5. Roast for 15 minutes. Toss and roast for 20 minutes more. The edges will be lightly browned and the inside soft and chewy.


Botanical Interests & Nancy McIlvaine | Dry Goods Manager & Sales