If you purchased or received BF seeds this year, read more for general tips, and specific growing instructions for the varieties we sell.
Seed starting can be hard... but it doesn't have to be.
If you're starting flowers from seed, kudos! It is both a delightful adventure, and a roller coaster ride of emotion as you begin the long journey from tiny little speckle of hope and anticipation to the payoff weeks or even months later. Here at the farm, we start almost every single flower from seed (usually around 10,000 seeds per year). There are a couple of different methods we use, depending on the variety, but the general steps and equipment are the same for all flowers.
The most important thing to remember, always, is that many of your seeds will fail. It's just the way it goes. Seedlings need a lot of love and attention, and let's face it, we live in a time of short attention spans. That said... here are our best practices for the highest germination and success rate for both seed/transplant and direct sow methods.
We've also included below the basic growing instructions for the five varieties of seeds we currently sell to give you a good head start on the cutting garden you've been dreaming of all winter long...
You do not need all of this... but when starting seeds indoors, these will greatly increase your success:
72-cell plug trays
hole-less bottom tray for watering
good quality seed starting soil - not potting soil, but something with some nutrients (we like Pro-Mix with mycorrhizae or for a peat-free option, you can use coco coir and add amendments like a little bit of green sand and vermiculite - see recipe at end of post)
Really the key ingredient here is the soil. Don't skimp and buy your box store potting mix - it will fail you. Try to find a quality seed starting mix - something that has some base level nutrients for root development (beneficial fungi) and vermiculite/perlite to maintain moisture. If you're soil blocking - definitely check out our recipe below. If you've never heard the phrase "soil-blocking" check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_mRges0q-A
The seed mat and humidity dome aren't critical, but we've found that really give our little seeds and seedlings the best head start. The seed mat helps keep the soil at the ideal temperature for most flowers to germinate in the expected timeframe, and the humidity dome allows you to maintain moisture on the soil without waterlogging, as well as give young seedlings more opportunity to uptake water through their leaves until they establish good healthy roots to grab it from the soil. The 72-plug tray are a good universal size for most young seedlings until they are ready to pot-up or transplant. And your LED light... well a sunny window works just as well, but even plants love to sunbathe as much as possible!
If you are going the direct sow method (recommended for cosmos, zinnia, dahlia after May 15), you can skip all that and focus on your outdoor soil/growing space.
Now then... Let’s Get Started
First and foremost, do a little research on growing instructions for each variety. Even as early as the seed starting stage, each plant has it's own unique requirements. For instance, how deep do you plant the seed? Do you cover it for germination or leave it on the soil surface? Should you sow more than one seed per cell (check the germination rate - anything under 70% - probably)? Does the seed need a cold period to germinate properly? Or does it need to be soaked? You'll also want to determine when to start your seeds - typically you count backwards from your last frost date which in our zone (5b) is May 15 - though we may start some things earlier if we know we can cover them, or later if we know that they really can't go outside until Memorial Day. We find that if this info is NOT printed on the seed packet, Johnny's Select Seeds has a wealth of information on their growing library page - check it here: https://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/growing-center.html
Once you have a clear idea of how to treat each seed - get your setup ready.
Prep Your Trays
Insert your cell tray into your hole-less bottom tray. If you are re-using trays from last year - you may want to give them a rinse in vinegar water and dry completely to sterilize
Clear A Space
Know Where It All Goes
And now we plant.
This is the easy part... usually. Rip open that seed packet and get to seeding! Again, keeping in mind the specifics for each plant variety. Something else to consider... if you are planting multiple varieties in the same tray, make sure you're blending them so that one tray only has plants that need similar lights, temps, and will be planted out around the same time. This will simplify your life TREMENDOUSLY. Get some music going, get a friend to help... it can be tedious, but remember it's worth it!
If you're going to direct sow... you want to make sure that you've got your timing down, and your planting area prepped. Knowing that we all have a different garden set up... I won't belabor this too much - your growing conditions will dictate what your direct sow looks like but they key ideas are universal:
Maximize your sun exposure - aim for at least 6 hours per day for most plants & flowers
Start with good soil - fair amount of organic material, lightly amend with compost, DO NOT fertilize until seedlings have emerged and set true leaves - and even then, only as necessary
Have a plan for weed control - keep competition low until your plants get big enough to shade out weeds on their own - you can invest in weed fabric, get a cool co-linear hoe, or plan to spend a lot of time on hands and knees
Plant for the spacing needs of each variety - plant more than you need and plan to thin later so you don't end up with empty space
Sow seeds only after soil temps have warmed sufficiently for planting - this is typically a week or so after your last frost date - for us in Zone 5b, Memorial Day is a generally safe bet
Water before, and after planting
the waiting game
As your seedling start to emerge, you'll want to keep a close eye, but don't smother them with your love. A heavy hand is almost as bad as ignoring them completely. You want to top water until seedlings emerge - but that's annoying if you have surface-sown seeds that you don't want to float away. Using a spray bottle with a mist function is ideal. Ideally, keep the soil moist, but not WET - essentially, just don't let it dry out totally but you probably won't need to water every day unless your growing area gets very dry. Remember - these seeds don't have roots or leaves yet, so can't take up a lot of water.
Keep the humidity dome and seed mats on until ~70% of the tray has germinated - then they can be removed. At this stage, you can start to bottom water to encourage the roots to stretch downward. This is where that water tray comes in handy - just dump a bit in there every 1-3 days (depending on your conditions).
As your seedlings mature, you'll want to think about hardening off. A week or so before planting out, you'll want to slowly expose the little plant beebs to outdoor conditions. Stepping it up slowly, set them outside for an hour, a few hours, etc., per day to experience wind and sun. If you have a safe space where they'll stay just warm enough at night, it's good to give them a taste of the cold as well... just not anywhere they can freeze (ideally ~45F).
When ready, plant out in your growing area - watering before and after you plant. Choose a nice day, and try to plant outside of the hottest hours - so morning or evening. Keep showing the love, and hopefully, all of your efforts will reward you with a field of blooms!
BF Seeds - growing instructions
If you bought or received seeds from us - here are a few specifics on the varieties we sell. First and foremost, note the variety, the basic growing instructions, and the germination rates on your seed packet. The following instructions are just a basic breakdown of best practices for each flower type - but we encourage you to consult additional resources (we recommend The Gardener's Workshop, Johnny's Select Seeds, and Floret) for more in-depth info on these flowers. Happy Growing!
Days to Germination: 8-14
Transplant (recommended) - Sow into 72-cell flats or preferred seedling container, 6-8 weeks before last frost. Light is required for germination; cover very lightly to hold seeds in place. Grow seedlings at 63-68°F (17-20°C). Harden off and transplant out after last frost. Direct seed - Not recommended in Zones 6 or lower. Pinching is recommended to encourage branching. To pinch, use your thumb and index finger or sterilized scissors to remove the growing point when plant is 6-8" tall. Plant out in well-drained soils, 6-12" apart.
Flowers mature in 90-95 days from germination.
Seed starting mix
Here's our fool proof mix to give your seeds a great start:
2 parts FINE compost - make sure it's free of large particles like sticks, rocks, etc., mushroom compost is a good commercially available option if you don't make your own (sub-in 1 part worm castings if you're weird enough to have a worm farm like us!)
2 parts coco coir or shredded leaf mold (literally just leaves that have been broken down from the prior year and shredded with a weed whacker)
1 part vermiculite
For soil blocking, we also add 1/2 part green sand to hold the mix together
There's still time to start seeds, and plenty of time to prep beds for direct sowing the above varieties. If you need to snag some - pop over to our shop and pick yourself up a few packets of the good stuff or grab them below.
Thanks for stopping by!