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Gardening is a very productive and enjoyable experience, and when done well, it will produce not only a pleasing array of plants, but also useful herbs, spices, and veggies. Gardening is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to start becoming self-sufficient, and as such it is a skill every prepper should acquire.
As your skills as a gardener improve, so will your yield and what you are capable of producing year round. The benefits of growing and maintaining your own garden are numerous, and there is something to be gained for everyone. But the first step to a good garden is the seeds. Here are 12 tips for starting them properly.
1. Good Compost
Before your little seedlings can prosper, you must ensure they are planted in the right soil. The first step to creating a thriving garden for spring is covering your garden soil in nutrient-dense compost. You can buy your own compost or make it.
2. Break Up and Prep the Soil
You want the seeds to have room to grow and be able to set roots with relative ease. Ensure this by breaking up and cultivating the soil. Remove any hard objects and rocks, pull the weeds, and soften up the soil. You will also want to mix in a bit of fertilizer. If you own any rabbits, you can mix in their excrement with the soil since it is excellent for garden beds.
3. Harvesting Seeds
You don’t need to purchase all the seeds for your garden. In fact, depending on what you would like to plant, you don’t need to purchase any seeds at all. With patience and determination, you can grow your own produce from the produce you purchase at the grocery store. If you would like to plant peppers or tomatoes, look for fully ripe produce before removing the seeds. You will also want to buy organically if at all possible—they will have been exposed to far fewer chemicals than the non-organic produce.
4. Storing Seeds
If seeds are to have any hope of growing, they must be stored carefully and properly. Store seeds in a small dry container or zip lock bag. Mark and store them in a cool, dark place like a refrigerator or a root cellar. A good organization system for storing seeds is best.
5. Preventing Overcrowding
Seeds don’t like to be crowded, and they are very temperamental to the conditions of their environment. If you plant a seed in a container that doesn’t drain enough water, the seedlings will die. If you plant seeds in too small of a container, they will be forced to compete for nutrients and oftentimes will fail to flower or grow well. If you have purchased your seeds, the packets will often tell you what kind of spacing to provide.
6. Choosing the Right Containers
The container you use to first plant your seeds should not only give the seeds plenty of space, but should also be clean and have adequate drainage. Plastic containers are best, and just about any plastic container can be used provided it has enough holes to drain water. Choosing the right container for your seeds will ensure that they grow properly and don’t become diseased or infected with any fungi.
7. Keep Planted Seeds at the Right Temperature
Although seeds that have yet to be planted are stored in cool dry places, planted seeds must be kept warm. There are many ways to help germinate your planted seeds with warmth. You can even microwave or bake the starting mix. But no matter what method you use, you must check the moisture level of the soil frequently to prevent it from drying out.
8. Provide the Right Amount of Sunlight
Once the seeds first begin to sprout, move them to a well-lit windowsill. As they continue to grow and get ready to be transplanted to your garden, you will first want to acclimate them to the outdoors and the harshness of direct sunlight. You can do this by setting the plant outdoors for a couple of hours the first day and then more the following days until the plant is fully acclimated to the outdoors and is ready to be transplanted.
9. Continue to Provide Space and Nutrients
As the plants grow they will need to be re-potted into something roomier, as well as provided fertilizer as they grow. Just like the human body needs nutrients to survive, plants require constant watering and fertilizer. The soil must always be good, light must be present, and the plants must receive water in order to do well. These things will never change for the plants in your garden. A good gardener is careful to monitor the needs of every plant in their garden.
10. Don’t Try to Plant too Many Varieties
If you are a beginner, planting too large a variety of plants can prove to be overwhelming and difficult. Gardening is not as simple as burying some seeds in the dirt and watering them once a day. Each different plant requires different care and should be planted at different times in the year. Serious gardeners will also keep a close record of how the plants in their garden are growing and how they are affected by their environment. Having too many plants to keep track of may set a gardener up for a lackluster garden.
11. Provide Good Air Circulation
If plants don’t receive adequate circulation, a fungus or mold may begin to grow in the soil. Both mold and fungus can harm the plant and be very difficult to remove once present. All this can be prevented by ensuring that you are not over watering your plants, and that they have adequate circulation.
12. Learn About Your Seeds
Seeds that have been purchased will have a lot of useful information on the back of the packet that they came in. Familiarize yourself with that information and follow it closely. Always buy a good seed-starting mix before planting a seed. This will give your seed a much better and healthier start. Plastic, paper, or cardboard containers are always best when first planting the seed. A heating pad may be used instead of lights to warm and germinate the seeds, but lights usually provide more bang for your buck.