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Botanical Interests’ Seed Starting Guide

January 02, 2016
basil plants
Courtesy Botanical Interests

Botanical Interests makes seed gardening easy! 
Each Botanical Interests seed packet is rich with information on the outside and inside to guide you through each step of growing from seed to ensure your gardening success. 

A unique aspect of sowing seed the Botanical Interests way is using the average last frost date. You’ll discover that sowing seed based on your average last frost date is best because it’s based on your own garden’s climate. 

How do I choose the best varieties for my garden? 
With over 600 varieties of flower, herb, and vegetable seeds, Botanical Interests can help you grow the garden of your dreams! The front of each packet highlights the variety’s best qualities, while the back has more in-depth information to help you choose what is right for you and your garden. 

You can be assured that all of our seed is untreated and non-GMO.

Should I start my seeds indoors or outdoors? 
Nature sows directly outdoors. It’s often the easiest and best way to get the results you expect, and you’ll save time sowing directly in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked. 

Often, plants sown directly outdoors are more vigorous and healthier than transplants. Large-seeded crops such as beans, corn, and squash germinate quickly when sown directly into the soil, often within a few days. Root crops such as carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes should always be sown where they are going to grow so their roots develop undisturbed. 

Some seed varieties can be started either indoors or in the garden. We help guide you with our recommendation on each packet. 


Botanical Interests Plant Tag Diagram
Botanical Interests (click image to enlarge)

When is the correct time to sow seed in my garden? 
Botanical Interests uses the average last frost date as a guideline for when to sow seed. We identify this as the first day in spring when there is less than a 50% chance a frost will occur. 

If you don't already know your average last frost date, contact your local independent garden center or local county Cooperative Extension Service Office. There are also websites that provide maps and charts with frost dates specific to your state, city, or zip code. Use that date as a guideline to sow seed at the correct time for your location. 

It’s also helpful to know your average first frost date in the fall so you can determine the number of days in your growing season as well as plan your summer and fall sowings.

Starting Your Garden Outdoors 
On the inside of every packet you will find the best growing conditions for the variety. We provide information about special care, organic gardening methods, and tips to improve your garden throughout the seasons. 

Soil: Your soil may be very different from soil that’s in a neighboring yard. A soil test can help you determine what type of soil you have and provide suggestions for improving it. You will want to use a soil thermometer to determine the temperature of the soil right before sowing, as optimal seed germination temperatures vary by variety. Soil test kits and soil thermometers can be found at your local garden center, or you can contact your local county Cooperative Extension Service Office for information about soil testing. 

Water: After sowing seed, soil should be kept moist, but not soggy, making sure the top layer of soil where the seed is growing stays moist. Depending on your garden’s climate, you may need to water more than once a day to keep the seed and soil moist. Too little moisture can prevent the seed from germinating, while too much water can contribute to seed rot. 

Light: Sunlight is essential for plant growth. Most flowers and vegetables need at least eight hours of direct sun during the day. An uninterrupted period of light is best, but sun exposure can be split into morning and afternoon sun. Some plants will grow in part shade—a few hours of direct sun each day and filtered sunlight through trees or structures the rest of the day. A few types of plants will be happy in complete shade or filtered or indirect sun. 

Starting Seeds Indoors 
Some varieties are best started indoors because you have more control over the growing conditions. If you are a gardener in an area with a short growing season, starting seeds indoors extends your gardening season, allowing you to grow varieties that require longer growing times. 

Containers and trays: Almost any container can be used to start seeds including milk or egg cartons, yogurt cups, or plastic berry trays. When reusing any container, it should be cleaned and sanitized and have holes that allow excess water to drain. For easy transplanting, try sowing seed in a paperboard or pulp pot— a biodegradable pot that can be planted directly into the garden. This saves you time and minimizes root damage to your seedling. 

Media: A high-quality seed-starting mix, a type of growing media, is loose and lightweight yet holds moisture and is free from sticks and bark. Avoid potting soil mixes or soil from your garden that may have bugs, weeds, or diseases that can affect germination. Thoroughly moisten media before filling your container.

Moisture: Covering your containers with a clear lid or clear plastic wrap helps retain moisture and increase humidity during germination. After your seedlings emerge, remove the cover. A spray bottle or mister is a great way to keep growing media moist without damage to seeds and young seedlings. Check regularly to prevent seeds and seedlings from drying out. 

Temperature: Optimal media temperatures for seeds to germinate will vary for each variety. Once the seeds germinate, room temperature of 70°–75°F will help the seedlings grow best. Warm season plants such as tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers appreciate warmer soil conditions and may benefit from the use of a special heat mat when sown indoors. 

Light: For best growth, seedlings need at least 16 hours of light per day. Even your sunniest window may not supply enough light to grow strong plants. To provide adequate light, we recommend using a shop light with a mix of cool and warm white fluorescent bulbs placed 1–2 inches above the seedlings. You could also purchase special grow lights. To make it easier, plug your lights into a timer that is set to turn on and off automatically. 

Circulation: Air circulation around seedlings can help prevent disease problems while strengthening seedlings. A fan on low setting will create the needed airflow. 

Fertilizer: A water-soluble fertilizer may be used when seedlings have at least two sets of true leaves. Check the label for the recommended rate to mix for seedlings and transplants.

Hardening off: This is the final step before planting your seedlings into the garden. It is a 1 to 2 week transition period that helps the tender seedlings adjust to outdoor conditions, including exposure to direct sunlight, wind, and changes in temperature. 

On the first day, put seedlings in a protected location out of direct sun and wind. Leave them outdoors for 1 to 2 hours then bring them back indoors. Each day, leave them outdoors longer and gradually move them into more exposed areas. Make sure to frequently check the soil moisture. 

Enjoying Your Garden 
The harvesting section inside our herb and vegetable packets provides a guideline to help you pick at the right time for the best flavor. We also include information on how to store herbs and vegetables, along with serving suggestions and delicious recipes. Flower packets provide information on using plants in the landscape and in your home as fresh or dried arrangements. 

Gardening from seed is very rewarding. We hope that every packet of Botanical Interests seed will further inspire and educate the gardener in you.