Seeds That Sprout Fast: Beat Cabin Fever With Fast Growing Seeds
By: Mary Ellen Ellis
A difficult period of being forced to stay home calls forspending as much time gardening as possible. Do all the work in the garden youcan, and then start growing. Fast growing seeds are perfect right now. You’llget quick results and be ready to put transplants in the ground soon.
Starting Seeds Indoors
If you’re new to startingplants from seeds, or new to doing it inside first, a few simple steps willget you started. All you need is a seed tray and soil. If you don’t have one, aseed tray can be as simple as an oldegg carton. Use a good quality potting or starting soil, and make sure youput drainage holes in your tray before planting.
Follow seedpacket instructions for seed depth in the soil as well as spacing. Set thetray another tray or dish that will collect draining water and put it somewherewarm. Seeds need temperatures between 65- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 24Celsius) for the best results. Once they sprout, put the seedlings in a sunnyspot or under a growlight and begin to thin as necessary.
Seeds That Germinate Quickly
Seeds that sprout fast are perfect for right now, when wecould all benefit from seeing green and growth. Here are some ideas to get youstarted:
- Lettuce – Try any variety. These will sprout quickly, and you can either use them right away as microgreens, grow baby lettuces, or transplant them outdoors to grow full heads and leaves.
- Turnips and radishes – As with lettuce, you can use the microgreens in the kitchen, or keep growing to get the roots later.
- Beans – Green beans of all varieties sprout and grow quickly.
- Cucurbits – Many of the plants in the cucurbit family germinate and sprout very quickly. These include cucumbers, squashes, and melons.
- Chives – These quick growing onions are tasty and fragrant.
- Annual flowers – Instead of buying transplants at the garden center this year, start some annuals from seeds. Fast-sprouting varieties include alyssum, bachelor’s button, cosmos, and marigold.
To speed the sprouting process even more, you can help seedsgerminate faster. A light scratching of the seed, called scarification,speeds germination. Use piece of sandpaper to do this and then wrap the seedsin damp paper towel. Place them in a dark, warm spot. Check regularly becauseyou’ll have sprouts soon.
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Timing is everything
Knowing when to start seeds indoors is important because it’s difficult to continue managing plants in small containers once they grow too large for their quarters. Not all seeds are started indoors at the same time — it depends on how quickly the seed germinates and how many weeks are needed for seedlings to reach transplanting size.
The seed packet is a good guide for when to start, as it indicates how many weeks of indoor growing is needed before your last expected frost date. Established seedlings can be transplanted outside after the last expected frost date. For example, if the packet advises planting six weeks before your last frost, and the last expected frost in your area is May 1, then the time to start that particular seed is March 15. There is a forgivable margin of error, about two weeks in either direction, but for ease in handling seedlings, it’s best to keep close to the recommended timing.
If warm weather is late arriving, warmseason plants such as zinnias, tomatoes and squash can be potted up into larger containers and kept under lights a while longer. But the general rule is to keep seedlings indoors for as short a time as possible, transferring them to outdoor garden beds as soon as they reach sustainable size and are ready for direct sunlight, wind and overnight temperatures.
Seeds That Germinate Quickly – Starting Seeds Indoors When Quarantined - garden
URBANA, Ill. – Herbs are popular in many gardens, but it can be expensive to buy and transplant mature plants. That’s why University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator Nancy Kreith recommends starting herbs from seed indoors as spring approaches. March is a good time to begin.
Thyme, rosemary, basil, sage, chives, and tarragon are good candidates for starting indoors. Many of these plants have very fine seeds and require a long germination period. If started early in March, they can be ready to transplant into the garden in mid to late May, depending on the region. Refer to Illinois State Water Survey for average frost free dates in your region at: www.isws.illinois.edu.
To start herb seeds indoors, use a peat-based soil-less seed-starting mix in a 3- to 4-inch-deep container or seed-starting flat with drainage holes. Pre-moisten the mix with water until it feels like a wrung-out sponge. Fill labeled containers with the moist mix, leaving about one-quarter inch of space at the top.
“Labeling containers with the herb name and planting date will avoid confusion when it comes time to plant outside,” Kreith says.
Plant at least five seeds (or a pinch) of one herb variety per container or cell and lightly cover with moist mix.
“As a general rule of thumb, plant seed just two times its thickness under the soil,” Kreith notes. “As plants become overgrown, seedlings can be thinned to one plant per pot.”
After planting the seeds, keep them moist during the germination period.
“One technique is to cover the flat or container with a clear plastic bag,” Kreith says. “The plastic helps hold in heat and aids in providing consistent moisture. However, be sure to monitor the growing media for mold growth. If you see mold, poke holes in the bag or remove it completely to improve air circulation.”
Plastic should be removed once the seeds germinate, usually in 10 to 14 days. A heat mat, available at many gardening stores, will speed the germination rate if placed under the container.
The sown containers or flats need approximately six hours of sunlight per day. A window with either western or southern exposure will work well initially, but over time, the herb seedlings will require more direct and intense lighting. Using supplemental grow lights or florescent lighting has been proven to work better than natural sunlight.
“If using fluorescent lights, keep them on for a minimum of 10 hours per day and place them as close to the seedlings as possible,” Kreith says. “Adjust the height as seedlings grow taller.”
Seeds and seedlings should be monitored on a daily basis as the transplants mature look for insects, rot, and extremely dry soil. The seeds and seedlings should only need a light sprinkle of water about twice per week, depending on the temperature of the home. Allow the planting media to dry out a little before watering again. Overwatering can lead to diseases such as damping-off, a common soilborne fungal disease that ultimately kills young seedlings. Constant moisture can also attract fruit flies.
As seedlings mature, some maintenance will be needed. If seedlings grow too large for their original containers, they can be transplanted into larger ones. If they become leggy, they may not be getting enough light.
“Be sure fluorescent lights are placed close enough to the plants, no more than four inches away,” Kreith says. “You can also increase the amount of time lights are on, up to 16 hours per day.”
Once seedlings reach six to eight weeks old, pinch off the top leaves to encourage lateral spread and a bushier appearance. After 10 weeks, most herb seedlings should be ready to transplant outdoors.
“Help the tender plants ‘harden off,’ or become acclimated to their new climate, by placing them outdoors on mild sunny days and bring them back indoors at night for one to two weeks,” Kreith recommends. “Once plants are hardened off, they can be transplanted safely into the garden for beautification, culinary, and therapeutic purposes.”
Some seeds can be sown directly in the ground around the time that transplants are ready to be planted outdoors. Herbs that do well by direct sowing include cilantro, arugula, and basil. In early spring, direct-seeding cilantro and arugula, both cool-weather herbs, provide a bountiful leafy harvest from mid-spring to mid-summer. Warm season herbs like basil can also be directly sown after the danger of frost has passed.
Fast Sprouting Seeds to Grow Indoors
While many vegetables are easy to grow outdoors, these five seeds are perhaps the easiest to grow indoors. They are normally very inexpensive and easy to find and will allow you to enjoy your own bounty of home-grown food with little effort.
Lettuce is first on my list because it’s so quick and easy to sprout. It doesn’t require any special considerations and it will easily grow right on your kitchen counter.
Because lettuce seeds are so small, it’s very hard to seed them individually. So I like to take a pinch of seeds and sprinkle them in a line across the container. You could also grow lettuce microgreens in which case you would just cover the top of the soil with the seeds.
Lettuce can survive in as little as 4 hours of light, and will actually taste better when protected from the hottest sun. They prefer cooler weather, and many varieties will tolerate some frost.
Once they have sprouted up a bit, you can decide if you want to transition them and plant outside or continue to grow lettuce indoors. Transition them from indoors to outdoors gradually over 1-2 weeks if you’re planning to plant them outdoors.
That said, lettuce would also be quite happy to grow right on your kitchen counter. If you have a sunny window, that’s all you’ll need. If not, try a bright white bulb in a desk lamp or a countertop LED grow light.
Turnips and Radishes
Turnips and radishes are super easy to sprout and very low maintenance. I like turnips better because we like to eat the greens, but both are quite easy and fast to grow.
Like lettuce, turnip seeds are quite tiny so sprinkle them in rows or blocks as you prefer. Thin them as needed as they begin to grow. Both turnips and radishes are root crops, so be very very gentle if you’re transplanting into the garden.
In an appropriately sized larger container, you could easily grow these vegetables indoors. They’ll need a bit more light than lettuce, but a sunny window should do just fine. Feel free to snip and eat the greens or harvest the bulb.
Both lettuce and turnips are great plants to grow for microgreens, too.
Chives are a great herb to grow on your kitchen counter! They come up very quickly—it’ll only take 2-3 days for chives to sprout.
Additionally, they are quite happy at room temperature, just place it near a sunny window. Plus, as a bonus, you can eat the leaves as they grow. Just remember never to take more than 50% of the leaves.
If you decide to move the chives outdoors, you can use them as a decorative (edible!) border in the garden. Just wait until they are at least 2″ tall to move them outdoors.
Beans are so easy to sprout! In fact, your kids have probably brought some sprouted beans home from school, and if they haven’t, this is the perfect science experiment to do with a young child!
If you want to get started growing your own plants from seed, planting beans is a definite yes on the list of the easiest ones to grow. Move them outdoors after the last chance of frost.
Bush beans will grow just fine in a container, but pole beans need vertical space to sprawl and climb.
Brassicas: Bok choy, Broccoli, Kale
Brassicas like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale are one of my favorite types of vegetables. They’re beautiful and impressive plants that are quite easy to grow.
These seeds will sprout readily but the plants are usually too big to grow entirely indoors unless you have a nice indoor growing space. Some of the brassicas like bok choy are especially fast sprouting and simple.
In fact, there is a mini bok choy that is so cute and fast, it’s almost ready to harvest before you have time to transplant it! But if you choose to grow regular size brassicas, move them outdoors when they are a few inches tall to allow them to properly grow.