Now is the right time to start planting seeds indoors for your outdoor garden. Growing your own vegetables and flowers from seed is fun and can save you a lot of money. These plants are usually sold in market packs of six or 12 transplants and can cost you a great deal if you have a large area to plant. For the price of less than one market pack, you can sow dozens of seeds in varieties and types not usually found at local nurseries or garden centers.
All seeds need two things to germinate: moisture and warmth. Keeping your seeds moist should not be difficult, but you need to use at least one heat lamp to provide the warmth necessary for successful germination. Plants really do not need a light source until they have sprouted and are able to conduct photosynthesis. Compare electricity rates in Houston to find home energy rates that are not so high that keeping the heat lamps on around the clock will make a real impact on your savings.
To begin your garden, choose seeds for the types of plants that grow best in the area. Many vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, melons and peanuts require a long growing season, so they are good choices for starting indoors. Beginning these types of plants indoors early allows you to take advantage of a longer, more productive growing season. Seeds for more exotic plants and vegetables are available at some nurseries, and they are also carried by a number of online seed suppliers.
You will also need to buy some soil-less potting mix. It is available at most local garden centers and offers several advantages over ordinary garden soil. It has drainage characteristics that are superior to most natural soils and is free of insects, bacteria and other material that might inhibit successful germination.
A good seed-starting tray, some plastic wrap and a soil thermometer round out the supplies you will need.
With your seed-starting tray half full of potting mix, add some water to the mix until it is evenly moist but not overly wet.
Sow the seeds at the depth and spacing recommended on the seed packet. If you obtained the seeds from a neighbor or friend and do not have instructions, a good rule of thumb is to sow the seeds at a depth two times their width.
Place your soil thermometer somewhere inside the tray and cover the entire tray with plastic wrap. This helps to preserve the moisture during germination.
Position your heat lamps no closer than 8 inches from the surface of the soil and switch them on. You may need to adjust them to keep the soil at a constant temperature of 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
When your seeds sprout, switch off the heat lamps, remove the plastic and provide the seedlings with adequate lighting and moisture until you transplant them outside.