Growing a plant from seed requires some patience, but it's also fun because you get to see and monitor the entire lifecycle of a plant. You really only need some basic essentials to start, and if you want a seed box with a little "classier" appearance, then stop by your local wineshop for an old wine box.
I don't drink wine. But I didn't share that tidbit of information with my local wineshop when I went in looking for a wine box. Luckily, the gentleman was sweet enough to go into the back of the shop to see if he could find one. "Most wine is now delivered in cardboard boxes these days," he said. Lucky for me there was one wooden box left and he was willing to part with it. Good, sturdy wooden boxes can be used for myriad purposes, but in this instance, I wanted to use it for a seed starter box.
Stages of seed development
There are a few things to keep in mind when you're starting seeds indoors. Firstly, there are really two stages when it comes to seeds: germination and growth. Germination is when the embryo bursts forth from the seed casing and emerges as a seedling. The growth phase is when the seedling starts to leaf out and becomes a more mature plant. Water, temperature and oxygen are particularly important for germination, and sometimes lightness and darkness can trigger germination as well, though requirements for each depend on the plant.
You'll need different conditions for germination versus growth. I've found that seeds—like lettuces and herbs—grow best when temperatures are a little bit higher than your average room temperature—say around 65 ° -70 ° F. You can "manufacture" a higher temperature a few different ways. Firstly, you can place plastic wrap or empty black plant trays over the top of your seedlings and begin creating a greenhouse condition or you can even place your seed box on top of your dryer, for instance, since that heats up quite nicely when you're using it. Like a mama bird with her brood, you'll want to ensure those little guys (and girls) are nice and warm, or else they won't sprout.
Seeds are like little lunch boxes. They have all their nutrients packed right in their own containers, so they really don't need any nutrients or fertilizer from their outside medium. The peat pellets or see starter soil that you'll be using is merely a medium to carry water and keep seeds moist and warm. You want something that is fluffy and light and doesn't get too water-logged or doesn't drain too quickly.
Most of the seeds I've started in my home, which range from mustard greens to herbs to sunflower greens really don't need light to start. It's pretty much the warmth and moisture that is most needed. If you have a vermicomposter in your home, you'll see that this is the case there too, as you'll often see seeds starting to sprout. However, once the seedlings emerge, they're going to need light—and lots of it! Seedlings are sun hungry. If you don't give them light, they'll be pallid and spindly. Plants require somewhere between 14-18 hours of good solid light to grow. Even a south-facing window doesn't always provide that much light throughout the day, especially if it's obstructed by buildings or trees, which is common in New York City. You may want to consider a wide-spectrum light that gives the seedlings a strong start. For instance, in addition to my south-facing window light, I have an Agromax Grow Light that I use for my plants, which is on a timer, so it turns on and off automatically. As your seedlings begin to get larger, you should consider moving them from your seed box to a proper growing medium and larger pot. But in the meantime, enjoy seeing your seeds grow! 🌿
- 1 wooden wine box
- plastic plant growing trays or cell packs
- peat soil pellets
- seed starter soil mix
- popsicle sticks
- plastic wrap (optional)
- Nab a wine box from your local wineshop. Line it with plastic plant growing trays or cell packs.
- Place seed starter soil mix and / or peat soil pellets in the growing trays.
- Follow directions of your particular seeds, but you'll want to place them within the peat soil pellets. These will expand when you water them.
- Write your seed's names on popsicle sticks with marker so you know which seeds are where. Lots of seedlings when they first emerge look similar to one another.
- Keep the box within a warm space for germination. You may even want to place plastic wrap over the top of the container to create more of a greenhouse-style condition.
- Once the seeds germinate, you should move them to a sunny area and as they get larger, you can carefully move them to larger pots.