Starting Vegetable Plants from Seed: Tips from Dawn Traxel

Mar 14, 2018

Growing Together Virginia Community Gardens Coordinator Dawn Traxel has been starting the seeds for her own garden for almost 15 years. She and farmer Janna Goerdt from the Fat Chicken Farm in Embarrass are presenting a workshop on starting veggie plants from seed on Thursday March 15 at the Olcott Park Greenhouse in Virginia. The workshop starts at 6 p.m.

Dawn has a background in botany and plant ecology. She got interested in gardening on her own, with vegetable gardening growing out of a general interest in self-sufficiency and growing her own food. She grew up helping out in her parents' garden, picks things up at workshops and classes, and gets tips from other gardeners and farmers.  "You just kind of learn by doing," she says. "You have to enjoy it to put in all the time and effort to really reap the benefits of what you grow."

Dawn will be starting plants for her own garden very soon, including tomatoes, peppers, onions, basil and broccoli. Squash will come a little later.

Here are a few of Dawn's  seed starting tips:

Don't plant seeds in soil. Instead, use a good germination growing medium. Soil can promote growth of mold and other things that are harmful to seedlings. A starter mix will hold moisture but also allow drainage.

Light is important. Use grow lights if you don't have a good south-facing window. Growing plants will need 12-16 hours of light per day.

Watch the temperature. Especially important if you do grow your plants in a window. Don't let them get too cold at night or too warm when the sun beats down during the day.

Warmth is generally good for germination. Once seeds germinate you can back off the heat.

Use a fan to strengthen plants.

Water your seedlings - just the right amount. Don't keep the growing medium too damp or plants might get a fungus that will lead to "damping off."

Keep lights close so plants don't get lanky.

You can hear the full interview with Dawn Traxel below. In it Dawn explains how the Growing Together Virginia Community Gardens started and how to sign up for a plot this year. She also describes the seed starting workshop that will be held on Thursday March 15th at 6 p.m. No pre-registration is necessary and some seeds will be provided. The workshop takes place at the Olcott Park Greenhouse which is located at 711 9th Ave West in Virginia.