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Tips & Tricks

As with all hobbies, everyone starts as a beginner. Here are our top 3 most asked-for tips to get your garden growing! Find your favorite Ferry-Morse® seed varieties on the seed display and look for Jiffy® branded seed starting items to find the items below!

How, when and why do I use a Heat Mat?

For seed starting, a quality heat mat is your secret super-power for fast and even germination. Most seeds need the heat of Spring soil to signal it's time to germinate (sprout). A heat mat provides bottom warmth that simulates the ground warming up in Spring, so placing your seed starting tray on a heat mat will speed up the germination process significantly! 

To use:

  • Fill seed starting tray with moistened Jiffy® seed starting mix or expanded peat pellets
  • Add seeds
  • Cover with humidity dome or plastic wrap
  • Place on heat mat until seeds begin to sprout
  • No light is needed to germinate most seed types; check your seed packet to be sure

Key to Success:

Don’t let the seeds dry out. Open the dome, mist with water, and replace the dome daily. Soil should be moist but not soaked. 

Do I need a Heat Mat and a Grow Light?

Yes, a heat mat and a grow light have 2 different jobs so you should have both in your arsenal.

A grow light helps seedlings grow faster and stronger by simulating sunlight when it’s too cold to grow seeds outdoors. Even if you place your seed starting trays in a south-facing window, your seedlings will benefit from the use of a grow light since early season sun-strength and day-length is typically less than what seedlings need.

To use:

  • Place tray with just sprouted seedlings in a temperate environment
  • Place grow light above seedlings 
  • Turn grow light on for 12-16 hours per day until plants are transplanted outside. An outlet timer is a useful way to keep timing consistent.
  • Light should be used without a dome or heat mat

Key to Success:

Keep the light about 2-3 inches from the top of the seedlings. Seedlings will get leggy, stretching for light, if the light source is too far away. Place your hand on top of the seedlings to double-check the heat level coming from the light. If you are uncomfortable, your seedlings will be too. You may need to move the light as the seedlings grow. Mist soil as needed to prevent the delicate seedlings from drying out.

What are the best varieties for beginners?

First off, always start with something you already love! Do you like bouquets? Then start a cutting garden. Do you love to cook? Start an herb garden. Do you want fresh and easily pickable veggies for the kids? Start there. Rule of Green Thumb: If you’re not excited to eat it or admire it, don't plant it.

But of course, there are some varieties that are notably easier for beginner gardeners. Annuals are a good place to start as they’ll give you striking results the year you plant them. Perennials have the benefit of coming back every year, but typically bloom best starting the second year.

Annuals that make excellent cut arrangements:

Aster, Cosmos, Snapdragons, Sunflowers and Zinnias

A well-rounded herb garden:

Basil, Cilantro, Oregano, Sage, and Thyme

Veggies that are faster growing with big rewards:

Beans, Peas, Lettuce, Radishes and Summer Squash