Starting Seeds: What Not to Do

Several years ago, I broke my ankle on Valentine’s day. I was at my job at an elementary school, playing dodge ball with a gym class of kindergarteners (some of whom had special needs, and I was their aid). One of my students threw a ball at me, and as I dodged it, my ankle bent the wrong way and snapped and I dropped like a bad habit. Sprawled out on the ground in considerable pain, I was unable to get up. So my studentz tried picking me up (MY HEART, SHE MELTS)!

Animated gif from Dodgeball of Justin Long getting hit in the face with a wrench, captioned "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball."

“Miss Hannah! Why won’t you get up?” *tugging on me, trying to stand me up* “GET UP MISS HANNAH”

“I don’t think I’m getting up buddy, but you go keep playing dodge ball!”

The situation devolved into even more embarrassing hijinks. Think a cot in the nurses office and laughing co workers. I wound up in a wheelchair for two months at home, unable to return back to work.

And that is how I wound up starting seeds indoors my first year, and I have a cornucopia of, “What Not To Do’s” all for you first timers.

WHAT NOT TO DO #1: Don’t rush into it.

Animated gif from Cast Away of Tom Hanks drawing a face on a volleyball
Seriously. This is a better idea than starting your tomatoes too early.

You know when it’s a bad time to start seeds in my area? The end of February. I was so fucking bored I that I ran headlong into starting my summer produce before March. THIS IS A BAD IDEA. I don’t care if you’re so bored that you wind up decorating your sports gear and go on adventures with it; rushing into starting your seedlings will result in leggy shitty plants that you’ll probably have to restart again anyway. I had to restart most of my stuff because it wound up getting all thin and sickly and a lot of it just straight up died.

WHAT NOT TO DO#2: Overwatering

Animated gif from Cast Away of Tom Hanks flailing in the ocean screaming "Wilson!"
Seriously. Don’t overwater.

Seedlings are incredibly delicate. You know what a bad idea is? Drowning them. Overwatering indoors leads to a host of health issues that will leave your indoor wee ones sickly and probably dead. When your seedlings first start out, all they’ll probably need is a light misting from a spray bottle, and only after a few weeks should you use anything else, if at all. A good fix for this if you have the money are the trays that hold water underneath and allow the plants to drink when they need it. We don’t use them because we already have normal trays we don’t want to toss out just yet, but when we re-buy them in a few years we’ll probably try and upgrade.

WHAT NOT TO DO#3: Fucking with the lights

This was probably the biggest mistake I made. When you start your seedlings in trays, they have to be like, inches away from the lights. The warmth of the lights is in some cases what helps sprout the seeds, and keeping the trays too far from the lights results in leggy and sickly plants. Leggy plants are ones that have a really long stem but are thin and anemic looking. You should only raise the lights away from the plants when they’re literally growing into them. The lighting needs to be almost directly over the plants if you don’t want them growing up leggy. It also helps if you start seeds that grow to be roughly the same height together, that way adjusting the lighting is less of a nightmare.

And there you have it, the three biggest things that will fuck up your seed start faster than a wrench to the face.

3 replies on “Starting Seeds: What Not to Do”

I think I made all these mistakes last year. I’ve started seeds the past few years, but last year, I messed it all up. No fresh basil for me! This year I’m going to be a lot better about it. I think I’ll plan things at boyfriend’s apartment because he has more of a yard and better light.

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