Starting Seeds like a Professional

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Seed Starting at Eureka Public Library

Learn to start seeds like a professional with the University of Illinois Extension Woodford County Master Gardeners, and check out your first seeds from the Eureka Public Library's seed library for free at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26. Seating is limited, so make sure to register by calling the Eureka Public Library at (309) 467-2922. The library is located at 202 S. Main St, Eureka. If you need a reasonable accommodation to attend this program, please contact the Woodford County Extension Office at (309)467-3789.

University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup will lead the hands-on workshop. She encourages gardeners to start seeds indoors before moving them outside. Doing this results in higher germination rates, produces more uniform growth and can give you a jump start on the growing season while the threat of frost still lingers.

While starting your own seeds during this workshop, you can also check out free seeds from the Eureka Public Library's seed library. The mission of the seed library is to lend free seeds to area residents in order to promote home gardens, seed saving and seed sharing. The library supports localsustainability efforts that encourage growing and eating wholesome, fresh, affordable food. Although the seeds are free, the goal is for people picking up seeds to harvest and donate a small portion of their seeds in the fall or donate commercially packaged seeds to keep the seed library collection growing and self-sustaining.

"April is the perfect time to start warm-season crops like peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant. In addition to, those perennial and annual flower seeds for the landscape," says Kelly Allsup.

This workshop date is chosen because the last frost-free date is expected to be May 10, and planting tomatoes before that date is risky. If vegetable seedlings are started too early they are weak, overgrown and have uneven shoot-to-root ratios. Most growers only allow four to five weeks for indoor growth on tomatoes before they are ready to plant them in a five inch pot. In just a few weeks of good growing conditions, seedlings can double in size, making them unmanageable.

So you are probably thinking why would I take the time to transplant my seedling to a five inch pot? "The results are worth it," says Kelly Allsup. "These plants will be faster growing, more resilient to disease and insects, and have better root growth."

Seed Starting Steps:

  1. Choose seeds, and read the germination requirements on the back of the package to determine seeding schedule for all garden plants. Some seeds germinate faster than other seeds. This information is crucial when timing your plants to be ready for the garden. For instance, cucumber, melon, squash, radish, beets, herbs and peas germinate faster than broccoli, cabbage, pepper, tomatoes, eggplant and Brussels sprouts.
  2. Fill plug trays with a high quality germination mix composed of peat moss, vermiculite and/or perlite. Tap trays on hard surface to ensure all air spaces are filled.
  3. Use finger to create indention in the soil. Place two seeds per cell. The general rule of thumb is bury the seed the same depth of the size of the seed; a 1:1 ratio. This information will also be on the seed package. Either sprinkle a thin layer of germination mix on top of the seeds or push seed down with the tip of a pencil.
  4. Use spray bottle to finely mist water onto the soil media until saturated.
  5. Cover with glass, clear plastic, or plastic wrap tucking under the sides of the plug tray to ensure moist conditions at all times. Remove covering daily, and only spritz the cells that have dried out. Laying newspaper over seed will keep in the heat needed for germination.
  6. Place the plug tray on heating pads, or place lights over them to emit extra heat at time of seeding. The optimal heat for germinating seed is 77-86 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a thermometer to determine the temperature of your rooting media.
  7. Once one seed has germinated, remove cover to prevent damping off (fungal disease) of young seedlings.

Congratulations you will have germinated seeds like a real professional.

Contact: Kelly Allsup, Extension unit educator, Horticulture – Livingston, McLean and Woodford Unit

(309) 663-8306,