Seedlings- Gardening Phase 1

After a long winter, almost nothing is more anticipated then starting my seedlings. It is like a burst of energy and the reason for most of my "spring has arrived" feelings. I eagerly await it each year as I watch the snow melt and the birds return. For us in Northern Alberta, starting too early can mean tall, gangly plants that become 'shocked' and 'stunted' when planted, hindering our already short growth season and leaving it to late doesn't allow for the growth cycles needed before harvest arrives. It is a very fine line with late spring frosts, although it has been made easier with the use of our greenhouses. I like to start my tomatoes, peppers, and herbs mid April indoors in trays, and use a three tiered 'indoor' greenhouse to help simulate the suns warmth and maintain healthy moisture levels to the young plants. With any luck the tomatoes will be transplanted late May/early June directly into the ground and the peppers will be transplanted into bigger pots and moved into the large greenhouse for the summer, while the potted herbs will grace the patios and BBQ area as soon as weather permits. I sometimes start vegetables like squash, pumpkins and zucchini at the beginning of May in 4 inch pots (their roots are tender and do not do well with transplanting), or sow directly in the ground after the last threat of frost. I also love flowers as they attract pollinators, are used in home remedies and are simply the easiest way to add beauty to any space. Our "patch of heaven" came with numerous overgrown lily and iris beds (which have since been seperated and dispersed throughout the property) as well as a few other hardy perrenials, which means I only need to grow the annuals that I want as 'fillers' for baskets or pots. The flowers will usually get started in mid April as well, since I am overexcited about gardening and they can easily be transplanted into bigger pots if needed before putting them outside. For the most part its all very simple and therapeutic, but there are a few tips I would like to share with anyone new to this. I am by no stretch a master gardener and I strongly believe that creativity and a bit of daring often leads to the best results. Give some of these tips a try and head over to our forum to let others know how it worked, or join one of our 'Calling All Gardeners' group and share your best techniques so others can benefit from all the shared gardening wealth out there!


  1. Choose quality seeds specific to your growing zone, or harvest your own from your own veggies/flowers. This will ensure the plants are resistant to pests and certain weather elements and that they are non-gmo.

  2. Use a nutrient-rich soil that has been allowed to "warm". This is important if you stored the soil outside for any amount of time as seeds sprout quicker when provided with the right combination of moisture and heat.

  3. IF you will be transplanting directly into the ground it saves a step (provided you have the room) to start the seedling in a 4 inch pot as opposed to a 2 inch and transpotting halfway thru. This allows room for the plant's roots to spread and ensures it doesn't become 'root bound' while waiting to go into the ground.

  4. For the large squash varieties, I find it easier to cut a toilet paper tube (brown/unbleached paper only!) in half widthwise, top with soil and plant my seed. Set them into a shallow tray and allow to grow. This eliminates the "transplanting" stage altogether since you can plop it into the garden space and allow the tube to naturally compost without hindering the roots. We have had great success with this method.

  5. During early sprout life, it is important to maintain adequate water and sunlight, without over-watering or allowing them to dry out completely. Watch your plants closely for signs. If the soil is loose or the plant wilts, chances are it requires water. If the soil is moist but the plant is limp it is likely over-watered, which can cause root rot. Move it to a sunny location and avoid watering until the soil dries out a bit.

  6. If you use store bought plant food or fertilizers (which I choose not to) follow the directions closely. Over feeding or fertilizing early can cause issues in the plants development.

  7. I would say only plant what you know you can maintain and harvest, however I usually over plant and find the young seedling make great gifts or can be sold. Spread the gardening love as it were!


The most important aspect of starting seedling and growing your own vegetables/flowers is to have fun. Try new veggies and add flowers that are not only beautiful but beneficial (future blog on that topic!). Below is an image of pepper seedlings that I 'harvested'from a store bought organic orange bell pepper and cut into quarters to plant. Needless to say that they had to be separated multiple times...lots of work and they all survived! Lots of peppers were gifted out last year and all the ones I maintained in my greenhouse produced. More science experiment than anything but sometimes that's how it goes! Happy gardening.


Tina Marie

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