I’ve started my own seeds for three years now and while I am FAR from mastering it, I do think I finally have a system that works for me.
Here is everything I use for starting seeds. FYI there’s going to be a lot of links but I am not affiliated with any of them:
- Heavy duty 1020 seed starting trays - Honestly, this might be my favorite purchase. If you’ve ever had a seed tray break in half while you are carrying it or develop a pin hole and leak water everywhere you are ready for this upgrade. I use these a lot more than just starting seeds now that I have them. They also sell a kit with inserts, pots and a humidity dome.
- A heat mat and a temperature controller - Greatly helps aid in germination (especially with pepper seeds) and gives you faster results. You don’t really need it after the germination stage unless you are growing in a cold basement where the temps go down below 60°F. The temperature controller is a MUST or you will fry your seedlings.
- Seed starting mix - you can buy it premade or make your own. I prefer a blend of 1 part peat moss or coco coir, 1 part perlite or coarse diatomaceous earth or coarse sand and 1 part vermiculite. You can do just peat moss and perlite but you will have to water a lot more often. You can also use compost instead of peat moss but will have to heat treat to kill off any bad microbes.
- Fertilizer - This is something I am still figuring out and trying to simplify. I’ve used organic fertilizers in the past but it led to some mold growth and seemed to harm germination rates. Using just liquid fertilizer leads to a large amount of algae growth on the soil and salt build up. This year I am top dressing with a low rate of Osmocote and doing 1-2 applications of 1/3 strength liquid fertilizer just to get things stated once the first set of true leaves appear.
- Grow light - Even with a very sunny south facing window I have found that my seedlings still get leggy. A T6 shop light will get the job done if you hang it 2" above the seedlings but if you are planning on starting seeds more than one year I would definitely get a dedicated grow light. This HLG-65 light is my go-to recommendation because it works out of the box, is a natural color, and is extremely energy efficient. If you need a larger growing area the HLG-100 covers a 3x3’ area.
- Pump sprayer for watering - Also something I am still figuring out. With a well draining potting mix its been a lot easier to underwater than to overwater in my experience. Watering plants under shop lights has also been a huge pain in the past. I will be using the method of watering from the bottom up once a week and using a pump sprayer to gently mist the soil surface to maintain just the right dampness every 1-2 days.