If you have sown seeds for one or two seasons and want to start a larger number of plants at home it is good to have some more growing supplies. There are a vast varieties of trays, containers, shelves, lights etc available in the garden centers and online. With all the enthusiasm of starting the plants one is often tempted to buy a number of these items. Often an artificial need is created by marketing and advertisements in magazines and one feels the ‘need’ to have these supplies in order to start seeds. But once you take your mind away from these advertisements and get back to the mind of a savvy gardener who is trying to grow a garden in the most sustainable way possible you will realize that you need only a few supplies. It is better to invest in durable supplies that will last for years.
Not everything has to be bought at the same time. First start small and in subsequent seasons you can expand according to your needs. Here are some basic supplies you may want to collect or buy for starting seeds.
1) Seed starting containers - There is almost never a need to buy these. Save the containers that you get from nursery transplants (the 6 packs and other 2-4 inch containers). These can be reused to start seeds. Also, be innovative and convert and reuse other house household items to grow seeds. There are a number of examples you can find on web for reusing items.
2) Seed trays: Save the trays and flats that you might get from nursery when buying transplants.
If you invest in buying tray buy very sturdy ones that will last for years. These are slightly more expensive but you will be not buying them every year which will save you money and eventually less plastic will be disposed in the landfills.
3) Tray cover - buy only one or two covers first. Buy a sturdy material dome cover about 5-7 inches in height. The tray covers which are only 1-2 inches high are not much useful in our dry, windy weather. Once the seedlings are about a inch high you will not be able to use these low tray covers and will be exposing the seedlings to harsh weather.
The high dome covers are more useful as they can be used to protect the young plants from cold or wind as they are growing.
4) Soil Block Maker - available in 3 different sizes. The 4-block soil block maker is the most useful.
5) Heating mats: Buy 1-2 seed mats for those plants which are started in December and January but need some heat to sprout such as peppers and tomatoes. Heat mats are not essential and you can certainly do without them. They do however shorten the seed germination time and may improve the rate of seed germination.
6) Mister bottle - to mist those fine seedlings and seeds which can be washed away sometimes with regular watering methods.
7) Labeling supply - Labels for trays and individual containers could be made using card stock, popsicle sticks, cardboard strips etc.