Tips for Seed Starting Your Home Flower Garden

Publisher’s Note: Here is the second in our series of gardening tips from professional grower Lauren Ketcham of Down the Road Farm in New Lexington, Ohio! Lauren gives us the inside scoop on how Down the Road starts their seeds for the season…

We start almost all of our crops from seed using a very basic system. We get access to a wide-array of specialty varieties that we may not be able to find elsewhere, and we get to control the timing of our plantings to fit our unique system.

We use Pro-Mix BX with Mycorrhizae as our peat-based seed-starting mix. We fill cell trays (72’s and 98’s are our most used sizes) with the mix, poking our fingers into each hole to tap the soil down so it settles and there are no air pockets.

Many of our flower varieties are “surface sown,” because they need light to germinate. After we fill our trays with seed starting mix, we water them thoroughly. We sow the seeds on top of the Pro-Mix, and dust the entire tray with vermiculate. We sprinkle the top with cinnamon (to inhibit fungal growth), and put a clear plastic dome on top, to help retain moisture. We label the trays with masking tape and a Sharpie.

We put the trays under grow lights (set to about 2-3” above the tallest plant) in a storage room, watering daily with a handheld sprayer. Each plant has a different temperature that results in the best germination, so we monitor the temperature of the trays closely until the seeds sprout.

After the plants have become established, we graduate them out into the backyard greenhouse (a low-cost DIY lean-to structure made from wood and covered in plastic) to start hardening them off, before transplanting them out in the field. We heat the greenhouse or bring the plants in at night as needed, if overnight temperatures will dip below freezing.

Try seed starting some of your own flowers this season!

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Lauren Ketcham, owner of Down the Road Farm in New Lexington, Ohio, holding a colorful spray of Ranunculus flowers

By Lauren Ketcham

Lauren Ketcham has been growing specialty cut flowers at Down the Road Farm in New Lexington since 2013. You can find her and her sustainably grown flowers each week at the Lancaster Farmers Market. Visit Down The Road Farm to shop for 2024 Flower Bouquet Subscriptions or to learn more about having local flowers at your wedding or special event.