5 Steps To Throwing A Successful Seed-Starting Party

Starting vegetable seeds indoors will help you save money and get your spring garden started sooner. But why do it alone?

January 11, 2018
seed starting party
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This winter was rough for people in many parts of the country. So why not find a healthy excuse to celebrate spring's arrival and throw a seed-starting party? Rounding up neighbors, family, and friends for a get-together is a great way to jump-start your home vegetable garden this season, plus, it's just really fun to gather people of different ages and expertise levels to share tips and garden together, even if it's only indoors for now.

Often, vegetable garden seed packets contain way too many seeds for the average homeowner's growing needs. And there's just something kind of sad about folding up the half-used pouch and tucking it away, sometimes to be forgotten. (Some seeds can be used the following seasons if stored properly, but others, such as onions, are unreliable if you don't use them the year you buy them.)

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It's also important to understand which crops are best to start indoors (and which prefer direct-sowing outdoors, like radishes, peas, and green beans.) The first step is figuring out your area's last frost date, and then planning your party and plantings accordingly.

Here's how to make seed bomb party favors:

Growing your own food has multiple benefits, most importantly that you know what's going in and on your food. Plus, if you grow food you like, you're more likely to cook at home, which studies show keeps families healthier. Adding a social component by throwing a seed-starting party also has its benefits: New research has found having meaningful conversations with people (versus small talk) makes them happier. Other scientists have found that happiness is contagious! So you can sow some seeds of gladness among your friends while you're starting your lettuce.

Here's what you need to know about throwing a seed-starting party:

1. Schedule it

In many parts of the country, now is the time to start garden favorites like tomatoes and peppers. And technology makes it easier than ever to set up a social event like a seed-starting party. The first step is to figure out your area's last frost date, so you can time your party to produce seedlings ready to transplant outdoors when the weather's right.

Find out which seeds to start by using our Seed Starting Chart. Send out good old-fashioned invites in the mail, call friends, or use email, texts, or plan your event on Facebook.

 

Related: This New Matchmaking Website Makes Seed Swapping Easier Than Ever

planting vegetable seeds
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2. Coordinate

Once you know who's coming to the party, it's time to delegate. Think of it as like a potluck dinner, where everyone brings something to share. (You can ask guests to bring food, too, by the way.) Here's a list of the things you'll need for a seed-starting party:

Seeds
Coordinate with guests to make sure no two guests bring the same vegetable or variety, and make sure the seed selection fits the seed-starting date of the party. For instance, in Pennsylvania, you wouldn't want to start onions in April; they're generally started indoors in February. But now is a great time to start tomatoes and peppers indoors. Try to find organic seeds, which are readily available in most local garden centers, or online from places like Johnny's Selected Seeds, High Mowing Seeds, and Seeds of Change. Planting some heirloom seeds can also ensure great taste and nutrient-dense produce while preserving traditional varieties.

 

Related: This Is Why It's So Important To Buy Organic Seeds

Containers
You can reuse nursery flats from last year or use containers around your home, including Chinese food boxes. Really, you can use just about anything that's two to three inches deep. (As long as it wasn't storing toxic chemicals or anything else not food-friendly.) Just be sure to clean used containers thoroughly with soapy water and then with a germ-killing 10 percent white vinegar solution to prevent the spread of plant disease. And make sure any container you use has two or three holes punched in the bottom for drainage.

Soilless seed-starting mix
Mix your own soilless mixes or buy them at the store. Just refrain from using dirt from your garden or other potting mixes. When choosing an organic, store-bought soilless mix, look for blends containing no synthetic fertilizers or wetting agents—these are chemicals you don't need. Figure on about six or so quarts of mix per attendee. You'll need a wheelbarrow or tub if you're mixing your own medium.

Sphagnum peat moss
Make sure you also have a small bag of quality (not lots of sticks and twigs) sphagnum peat moss on hand. Lightly sprinkle it over your planted seeds. It's a natural fungicide and can protect against damping-off, a fungal disease.

Related: All The Things You Really Need To Start Seeds Indoors

Labels
It sounds like a no-brainer, but with so many seeds and people in a room, it's very easy to lose track of what you've planted. Use popsicle sticks, homemade labels, or even the seed packet itself to label the date of the planting and identify the type of seedlings. You may also want to include the date to start hardening off the plants and when to transplant them outside.

Music
Listen to whatever your guests like, but we recommend some gold old fashioned barn rock, courtesy of bands such as Tin Bird Choir. Find them on Spotify, Bandcamp and Facebook.

3. Prepare for a mess

Make sure you have a big enough area for your guests to navigate, and cover the tables you plan to use with newspapers. Try to set up shop in an uncarpeted area to prevent a real mess.

planting seeds
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4. Finally, get your hands dirty!

Step 1: Fill your tray or other container with a soilless mix. (You can dampen it slightly with water beforehand, if you like.)

Step 2: Sprinkle several seeds in the tray; if you're using smaller cells, plant two seeds per cell.

Step 3: Read your seed packet to see how much soil to spread over the seeds, if any.

Step 4: Sprinkle with water or use a water bottle to mist the top.

Step 5: Cover your tray or container with a plastic humidity dome or plastic wrap (you'll leave the lid on or the plastic wrap over your container until the majority of seedlings emerge). When you get home from the party, put the container in a warm (not hot) place, such as on a heating pad, a heat mat, or the top of a refrigerator. You should see condensation forming on the lid, but if you don't, gently mist a little more water over the soil. Seeds generally germinate in a week to 10 days.

Step 6: Once your seedlings emerge, in the average home you won't need that supplemental heat that the cover provides, but you will need to move the seedlings to a bright windowsill or put them under inexpensive grow lights.

Related: 14 Tips For Growing Healthy Seedlings

5. Send guests home with a plan

Before everyone leaves, make sure everybody understands how to care for the seedlings and how to spot the signs that it's time to transplant them. Soon after plants' first true leaves emerge, the plants should be transplanted into individual pots. According to Organic Gardening, it's time to transplant if the seedlings outgrow their containers or start crowding each other. To transplant to a larger container, fill the pot with a soil mix including compost, use a fork or popsicle stick to extract the seedling, gently tuck the young plant into its new pot, and water.