Everything You Need To Know About Seed Starting in Alberta

Everything You Need To Know About Seed Starting in Alberta

You’re not imagining it; grocery prices in Alberta have certainly skyrocketed over the last year. The average household food bill increased by 9.2%, and there isn’t any sign of stopping. More people are looking for alternative ways to get their vegetable and herb fixes, including growing it yourself. There are a ton of veggies you can grow in our climate, including:

  • Beets
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Radishes
  • Celery
  • Peppers
  • Carrots

And even herbs too!

When you’re buying plants that have already been potted, it can become costly. The best way to approach gardening on a budget is by starting with seeds. Most seeds must be started six to eight weeks indoors before the final frost. Now is the perfect time to begin planning what to grow and gathering everything you need for a successful spring.

How To Grow a Vegetable From a Seed

Are you ready to combat inflation, start a gardening hobby, or enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of your labour? Read on to learn more about the process of growing a vegetable from a seed.

Step 1: Read the package.

The general seeding process is typically the same, but your package of seeds will contain some additional information to help it grow and thrive. The critical information to look for is:

Planting time: This will tell you whether it’s best to start growing indoors or outdoors. Due to our cold climate, most seeds are best started indoors.

Days to maturity: This refers to how long it will take until your seed produces fruit or flowers. If you purchased a pack of tomato seeds that says it takes 100 days, you’d need to begin seeding in April to enjoy tomatoes in July.

Nutrient needs: The package will tell you how much light and water the plant needs to thrive. Some will need a fluorescent grow light, while others can flourish with window light.

Soil: Each plant has different soil needs. Some can get started in potting soil, whereas others may need a seed-starting mix. The package will also recommend a soil temperature. Due to our colder climates, heating mats are often used to achieve this.

Once you’ve read the package and know the right time to begin seeding, you can move on to step 2.

Step 2: Get the right containers.

The size of your container can vary as long as it’s at least 2-3” deep with some drainage holes. Some gardeners get creative with old yogurt cups, milk cartons, or whatever else they can find around the house.

The best container for plants to flourish is the biodegradable jiffy pot you can find at one of our Bluegrass locations.

You’ll only want to put 3-5 small seeds or 2-3 large seeds in each container. Ideally, you’ll cut out weaker seeds and end up with one strong plant you’ve nurtured.

Step 3: Prepare your soil and begin planting.

Choosing the right soil is important for the germination process to be successful. Some gardeners use a mix of topsoil, compost, and potting soil for the best results. Before putting the soil in your containers, you’ll want to moisten it. You don’t want it to be too dry or soaking wet. Aiming for a consistent damp level is ideal, almost like a wrung-out sponge.

You can find all the types of soil you’ll need at one of our locations. If you aren’t sure of the right mix for your needs, our friendly staff will be able to guide you to the proper selection.

Once the soil is damp, it can be added to the containers before planting the seeds. The seed packet will tell you how deep you need to plant them. Smaller seeds typically can be sprinkled on top of the soil, whereas larger seeds need to be buried for germination to be successful.

Tip: If you’re planting more than one vegetable or herb, label your containers. You can do this with a cheap plastic plant marker during the germination process.

Step 4: Nurturing your seeds.

Now that your seeds have been planted, you’ll need to nurture them so they can germinate and sprout into seedlings. To do that, you must keep the seeds at an ideal temperature.

If you’re in Alberta, it can be hard to maintain this with the natural elements. The best setup includes a heat mat for the seeds to rest on to maintain the right humidity. Remember that if you use a heat mat, you may have to water your seeds more frequently.

A small fan can help keep the air moving if you’re worried about low air circulation. You don’t have to worry about the light until the seedlings emerge, which can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Once you’ve noticed the seedlings, you need to ensure they get light.

In our area, a south-facing window isn’t typically good enough this time of year. We have a lot of cloudy, short days, which can stunt the growth of your seeds. Sometimes they need to soak up light for 15-16 hours per day. A fluorescent grow light can help combat the winter weather’s disadvantages.

When it comes to watering, using a spray bottle is recommended, so you don’t damage the seedlings. You’ll want to keep your soil moist, which can mean watering once a day or every other day, depending on the light and heat conditions.

Step 5: Transplant your seedlings.

When your seedlings are ready for a life outdoors, you’ll need to harden them. Once you notice their first set of leaves, that’s the sign they’re ready.

Hardening simply means giving them short spurts of time outside in the sun for a week. You can begin with an hour, gradually extending the time they spend outside. Once they’ve adapted, you can move them into your garden or larger container outdoors.

After a few more weeks outdoors, your vegetables will be ready to eat! If this is your first time growing from seeds, or you didn’t have the results you hoped for last year, visit one of our locations in Calgary, Edmonton, or Red Deer. Our staff can help you figure out precisely what you need for a successful gardening season.

Have you grown anything from a seed? What did you notice about the process? Share your experience with our readers in the comments below.