Indoor seed starting set-up

Cat-proof seed starting situation; no salad for you, Alfie.This is the first year I’ve been with the program enough to get my seeds started by the right time (to not have to buy starts, plants already started from seed elsewhere.) I’ve discovered that this level of preparedness usually involves acquiring your seeds before it’s nice enough to go outside in flip flops, way before.

There’s a ton of info out there about starting seeds indoors, but all sources I searched failed to mention the case in which the scene includes a crazy orange cat who thinks my seed starts would be the tastiest afternoon snack.

Seed starts also need light to germinate (or at least the two seed varieties I bought that require indoor starts do.) My ground floor apartment has extended exposure to kneecaps, not sunlight.

Step 1: Containment

I purchased this run-of-the-mill aquarium/terrarium for $9 via Craigslist. He was asking $10, but I gave away one of the only ten dollars in my wallet to a guy break-dancing on the subway. Aquarium guy didn’t mind; he was moving overseas and was glad to be rid of the bulky glass item.

Step 2: Containers within the Containment

Out of sheer exasperation with finding reasonably priced, conveniently located planting supplies in Brooklyn I took to my recycle bin.Poke holes in the divots where the eggs used to liveSlice an empty gift-wrap tube into 2-inch planters.

Step 3: Fill ‘em up.

I’ll put up tomatoes at summer’s end thanks to a few of these guys.I bought these little seed-starter pellet thingys in an attempt to buy myself a little more time before (pulling all my hair out) the deadline for finding natural soils (not MiracleGro that says “organic”) in NYC. They were $7 for a pack of 25, made in Eugene, OR and the package says Earth Plugs, though the website printed on the label is for natural EAR plugs. Anyway, even if I can’t direct you on how to get these exact soil plugs (that produce the right atmosphere for seed germination), I can tell you that there are a million ways to start seeds so don’t fret over it. Seeds are hardy and resilient and will crawl out of dormancy eventually.

For the Globe Amaranth flower variety I selected, the second of my two indoor-seedlings, I just started them in garden soil from last year. I do not plan to eat my globe amaranth flowers, so soil is less dire in this case.

Step 4: Lights!

Don’t buy fancy grow light bulbs (like I did) for seed-starting. If you plan to keep growing plants indoors (not transplanting to a container or garden bed outside) then, yes, do buy the grow light bulbs. I bought two 50W grow (special spectrum) bulbs at Lowe’s, each priced at about $5.

For seed-starting (in a non-sunny window) Just put one of your compact florescents in the Containment at least 3 inches away from the starters. You don’t need a timer. Just turn it on in the morning, and you’re bound to be home 12-14 hours later to turn it off. Our apartment is not big enough to forget that there’s a glaring fluorescent aquarium that needs to be turned off before bedtime.

The light will also provide enough heat needed to germinate your seeds. I threw a towel over the top to keep as much warm humidity inside the aquarium as possible.

Any questions?


5 days in: Sprouts!! (4 flower, 2 basil, and 1 tomato thus far)