Answering 18 of Your Seed Starting Questions!

What's up everyone. Kevin here from Epic Gardening.

I've gotten a lot of questions. It's 2020, it's January.

We're talking about starting seeds and so what I thought I'd do in today's video

is just rapid fire through a lot of seed questions I got from you on YouTube,

Instagram, the podcast and I'm going to be broken down in specific categories,

so check the timestamps, but without further ado,

let's get into some seed starting questions. Question one,

the most complex question is how do you know when to start your seeds?

It's hard to answer this because number one,

we all have different growing climates. Number two,

we all are growing different plants and plants prefer to grow in different times

of the year. And so the best way to do this is to figure out your planting zone,

right? Your USDA Hardiness Zone.

You can do that by just googling it and then typing in your zip code and you

will find that. Next,

take that zone and then type in planting calendar or planting guide or the

season that you're in, spring, winter, fall, whatever,

and you're going to get a general list of things to plant and what dates to

plant them at because you really want to make sure that not only are you

planting varieties that work well in your region,

but you're also planting things in the season that they actually grow in.

Because as soon as you start that seed,

it starts growing and so you want to make sure that you're not planting

something that is going to grow out of season. So that's my number one tip.

Of course, it's going to get a lot more complex.

I'll actually do a full video on this question,

but now let's go on to number two. Question two is kind of related.

It's how do you plan your seed starting? I use Google Sheets personally.

That's what I like to do and what I do is I know how many raised beds I have.

How many other types of grow systems I have or if I'm growing in the ground,

how much square footage that is,

and then I know what's my total available space to plan,

as I bump my chard around,

and then I select the varieties that I really want to grow - food I like to eat,

number one rule and varieties I think will do really well in my region.

So I will release a Google spreadsheet about this at some point in time,

but I'm still kind of working on it for 2020.

Question three is what seed companies do I recommend? Honestly,

it's a really long list. So what I'm going to have you do is look right here,

pause the video and check some of these out. All of these I've used,

grown and recommend, so it's a very long list, but go ahead,

check it out right here.

Our next question is what are some beginner seed starting recommendations,

some sort of foolproof plants.

So the way I think about this is roots and shoots.

Things that grow in the ground underground that we're harvesting for their tap

root or their swollen root is a really good idea. Radishes, beets,

carrots, things like that are pretty easy.

And then anything that you're not actually growing through its full life-cycle

lettuce, right? Lettuce likes to throw up a flower,

but we don't really eat that,

so we're just kind of planting it and cutting off the lettuce.

So right here I've got some beets. These are some beautiful,

beautiful beets I'll be pulling up soon.

There's some radish right here and back here, which you can't see,

are some Asian greens. This is sort of a great example of a beginner's bed.

Root crops and greens. Just go with those. And then herbs.

Some herbs are pretty easy. Of course basil, things like mint all really,

really easy beginner crops. The next question I get a lot is,

should I plant in a seed starting tray or should I just plant it in the pot that

it is going to grow in or should I just sow it out in the garden?

I almost always prefer to grow in seed starting trays. Number one,

that allows me to succession plant more readily.

I don't have to wait for something to clear up in the garden to start seeds.

I can just start my transplants, pop it in, harvest out,

and I have this nice recirculating system. However,

you know sometimes you do want to do this.

If you know for sure that you're going to grow,

let's say a single tomato in a pot like this or probably a bigger pot for

tomato, uh, you may just want to do it. It's not a big deal.

You can totally do that.

The reason why I really prefer the seed starting trays is because they are very,

very space-efficient and as a small-scale gardener, I need that.

I want 24 sites to grow plants right here versus one. Right.

Just kind of look at the difference. It's a big difference.

That's why I typically prefer seed starting trays.

That brings us to our next question,

which is do you start all of your seeds indoors or do you just direct sow some

seeds? I start almost all of my seeds indoors in some degree.

This is my garden shed, so it's sort of a half indoor, half outdoor.

It's not very well heated, but it's a little bit warmer than average.

And I also start some upstairs in my LED system in my room,

so I'm a little bit crazy. But anyways, I like to start indoors.

There are only a few crops that I will direct, sow,

so most root crops I'll direct sow things like radishes certainly cause they

grow so quickly and the seed is very large. I'll direct sow things like beans,

uh, I actually won't direct sow things like peas,

I find that they transplant just fine. And so I'll,

I'll transplant those because then I can again control the way that my garden is

being managed throughout the season. But yeah,

almost always I am starting seeds indoors for more control over the environment

and more control over the seeds' health and just more control over my overall

garden. Next question is, okay, if you start your seeds indoors,

how long do you keep them indoors?

And what I thought I'd do is show you an example.

So what I have here are kale and lettuce.

So you can see the kale has two seed leaves, there's one true leaf right here,

and then there's another true leaf right there.

That's about the point that I want to get it out into the garden.

It's looking good, it's looking healthy, and the sooner I transplant it,

that means that it's not going to get root bound in here and it's going to get

better established out there earlier in its life.

So it's set up for success and it really is the same with this lettuce here.

The seed leaves are hard to see. They're right at the surface of the soil,

but we have one, two, three, four mini leaves here.

Time to get this guy out into the garden and get it growing.

Our next question is,

do you need a seedling heat mat in order to successfully germinate?

The answer is no,

but most of us are not growing in a room that is warm enough unless you're

starting seeds actually indoors and your house is heated.

So I often do have them.

Now you can buy these ones that fit a 10x20 tray,

so this fits a 10x20 tray more or less perfectly.

If you're starting seeds on a larger scale,

they have larger ones that sit maybe four to six 10x20 trays,

which is really, really good, so that's what I would recommend.

It's really a pretty cheap investment.

They don't use a lot of power and it can dramatically boost your germination

rates if temps are too low,

which oftentimes they are if we're growing outside of the season.

Probably the most popular question I get is what are the best types of grow

lights for starting seeds. Now I'm going to go in order,

there's three sort of categories that I like to think of. Budgetwise,

your best bet is to going to grab some sort of shop light style set up with T5

fluorescent lights. This one's actually an LED, it looks like a T5 fluorescent,

so you can also opt for one of those, but that's your bare bottom budget.

Oftentimes these don't put out quite as much light as you would want,

which is why we'll go to our next option.

Your next option is the T5 fluorescent,

specifically made for seed starting type of fixtures.

So there are four T5 fluorescent, high output bulbs.

They're putting out a good amount of light.

You can see there's a reflective coating that's going to help direct the light

downwards. This is a Sunblaze T5. It is two feet long.

And again there are four high output fluorescent tubes.

So for a little bit more money you're going to get a significant amount more


And seeds are really light hungry when they first come out of the ground.

It's going to be the way that you get them set up and prevent stretchiness or

legginess. So let's go to our third option.

Option number three is the light you've seen earlier in this video.

This is the NextLight Veg8 and basically what it is,

it's a really big LED panel. It's a full spectrum LED panel.

Now you don't have to get the NextLight Veg8.

This one just has a really wide footprint.

So I can cram maybe ten 10x20 propagation trays under here and just one light

will handle all of it, which is fantastic. But getting a high output,

full spectrum white LED that is extremely energy efficient and also puts out a

decent quality of light is going to be a good idea.

And I do have an entire video on how to evaluate an LED grow light.

So I really recommend you check that out before you make an LED purchase because

they can be pretty pricey. But if you get a good one,

you're kind of set for life. Our next question is,

are you putting all of this stuff on a timer, your heat mats, your lights,

et cetera. So I'll put the lights on a timer, usually 18 hours on,

six hours off or 16 hours on, eight hours off. Kind of depends. But yeah,

I will put the light on a timer.

I just try to match that to the actual day and night cycle.

And then I will also put an oscillating fan in on a timer as well because I

don't need that running all the time, probably around 16/8 as well.

And that's to provide an extra little bit of wind or environmental pressure on

these plants so that they actually grow up nice and strong. However,

I will not put the heat mats on a timer.

Those just remain on for as long as I need them and then when I don't need them

I unplug them.

A really popular question is what is your favorite seed starting system as far

as the tray goes? Right now I've been using this GrowEase starting tray a lot,

so it is a little bit smaller in the sense of it holds less.

There's 24 total cells,

so a lot of the ones will be like 72 or a 100 but what I like about it is the

way that it is designed.

So you have this bottom section which you fill up with water to about there or

so, and then you have this right here,

sort of a lift and then you have a wicking mat.

So once this gets wet it will provide water to the bottom right here on all of

the grow sites. And so this, this moistened hits this,

the water wicks up through this right here via capillary action and you have a

bottom watered seed starting tray,

which is great cause then you don't have to water from the top,

which means that water stays in here more and the seedlings stay moist,

which is a common problem that people will have - is their seedlings will dry

out. And then if you want you can just toss your humidity dome on top.

So I really like this one.

There are of course many different ones that you can use,

but this is my preferred one for the moment.

The next set of questions is all about the soil for starting seeds as well as

different techniques for that soil.

So the first question I get is do you use the same soil for starting all of your

seeds? For the most part the answer is yes. Especially for my vegetable garden.

I don't want to create custom mixes. It's complicating it a little bit too much.

And that leads into the most obvious followup question,

which is what is the seed starting mix that you use? I've tried a lot.

There are a lot of good ones out there.

The one that I really prefer right now is Espoma's seed starting mix.

I really do invest in buying in seed starting mix specifically.

I don't buy in tons of different types of soil and all sorts of fertilizers and

stuff like that too often, however I do sometimes do that,

but with seed starting mix it can be pretty important because again,

that's the beginning of your plant's life.

You want to make sure you're putting in something nice and good and so I do

recommend Espoma indoor organic seed starting mix.

The next question I get is do you use those seed starting pellets like those

Jiffy peat pellets? First of all, I try to use less peat,

that's something I'm trying to do going forward just for some sustainability

issues and if I can use a high quality mix and even sometimes repurpose that

high quality seed starting mix, then I really don't use the starter plugs.

I don't have anything against them per se. They definitely work,

but I've found methods that seem to work a little better for me personally.

The next follow up question is, do you ever experiment with soil blocking?

So soil blocking, I've done some videos on in the past. In fact,

my friend Steven Cornett did a video where we compared them.

And what I personally feel is for me,

it's more effort than it's worth when I can just effectively create soil blocks

just like this. And as long as I take them out in time,

I get all the benefits of the soil block anyways.

A lot of people soil block because it prunes the roots on the sides. Well,

if I take these out before they get root bound,

I don't even have to worry about that. So to me,

soil blocking ends up being a little bit too much effort for a little bit too

little reward. The next question I really often get is, hey,

how many seeds are you putting in per cell? Now I have an entire video on this.


general rule of thumb is around two to three unless you're growing something

like beet or chard, which is really a compound seed,

there's a lot of seeds within it. But then what you can do,

and I've done it here, you can see at the soil surface,

I've come through and thinned to the ones that I thought had the most viability

and most health and so I'm sort of guaranteeing something germinates in every

single one of these cells as well as selecting the one that I think is the best.

A really common problem that a lot of people run into is their seedlings get


So they etiolate or stretch out and they become sort of thin and floppy and then

when you transplant them they just will fall over.

And what you'll notice here on this kale is it's really nice and stout,

nice and sturdy. Part of the reason for that is I've correctly lit it.

I've given it enough light at the beginning of its life so that it does not feel

the need to stretch out. Another reason that it kind of looks this way,

which is pretty stout, pretty sturdy,

pretty healthy is because I've actually provided some level of environmental

stimuli, right?

So I've actually blown a fan over these over the course of their life.

And so they're actually having to resist the elements a little bit,

which does in fact strengthen the stem so that they're not only stronger but

they're more stout and more healthy and ready to go into the garden.

The next common problem you're going to run into is some level of stunted growth

and you can see here on this pak choy,

all of its cousins have already been transplanted cause those were much


This one is just looking a little bit stunted and the main reason for that is

poor soil preparation or inconsistent watering. So the soil is the same.

I used my Espoma mix, so that's definitely not the problem.

But what happened with this one seems to be,

it was a little bit too dry for too long.

For some reason the soil in this cell just didn't wick up water quite as much

and this one just ended up being a little bit weaker. Of course,

sometimes it also has to do with the seeds.

Sometimes you just kind of get a bum seed.

That's why I recommend planting more than one per hole so you can come through

and really pick the one that's best for you.

You can see over here with these peas, all of these look really,

really nice so I haven't made any watering or soil preparation errors.

They've all grown really well and we're in good shape.

Another problem that you might see on the surface of your soil is a sort of

white spidery mold or really any sort of discoloration.

Oftentimes that's going to be mold or bacterial growth and that's from an

overabundance of moisture in the soil. So soil,

it's just too wet and a lack of airflow cause that's the increased humidity.

That's, that's the recipe for that.

And so to decrease that you want to dial back your watering and you want to

increase the airflow with an oscillating fan or something like that and you also

may want to treat it, you can do a grapefruit seed extract treatment.

There are some other treatments that will also work pretty well for mitigating

that. So there we have it. A lot of seed starting questions answered for you.

Of course there's more. I have a seed starting guide already on the channel,

but if you have another specific seed starting question or something that you've

learned that's worked really well for you, drop it down in the comments.

I'll definitely read and reply to all of them. And until next time,

good luck in the garden and keep on growing.