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It’s Time to Start Some Seeds Indoors

Seedlings

These seedlings are are growing strong under fluorescent lights.

Every year I start seeds. Lots of them. In fact, I think it may be my favorite part of gardening. There’s something wonderfully familiar and comforting about handling the seed-starting mix and sowing seeds, even as the snow flies outside. There are few things in life more magical than planting a rock-hard seed and watching it spring to life.

Of course, there are practical of reasons to start your own seeds indoors, too. Here are a few:

  1. You can grow unusual varieties. There are thousands vegetable and flower varieties, yet relatively few of these are available for purchase as transplants. So if you have a particular variety in mind, like Black Cherry Tomatoes or Sweet Frying Peppers, you may have to start them from seed yourself.
  2. You can get a jump on spring. You don’t have to wait until the weather warms up to plant heat-loving Basil — start it indoors, transplant seedlings outdoors once the weather warms up and you’ll begin harvesting it weeks before your outdoor-sown basil.
  3. You can save money. You’ll get dozens of plants from a single pack of tomato seed — a packet that costs less than the price of a single tomato transplant.
  4. You can control how the plants are grown. For example, you may choose not to spray pesticides on your seedlings.

Which Crops Should Be Started Indoors?

Paper PotMaker

Use the Paper PotMaker to make biodegradable pots from old newspapers.

New gardeners often ask why they can’t plant seeds right in the garden, instead of starting them indoors.

  • Many favorite garden crops, such as Tomatoes, Peppers and Eggplant, originated in tropical environments and require a long, frost-free growing season. In many parts of the U.S., if you plant tomato seeds outdoors after the last spring frost you’ll be lucky to get a tomato or two before the first fall frost. If you want to grow these long-season, heat-loving crops, either start them from seed indoors or purchase transplants to set out after the last spring frost.
  • In regions with short springs where summer heat arrives early, it helps to start cool-season crops like Broccoli, Cabbage and Cauliflower indoors. Crops like these grow and produce best in cool weather, so starting them indoors and setting them out as transplants a few weeks before the last spring frost gives them time to mature before hot weather arrives. For an extra early harvest, start Lettuce indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost date.

Some plants can be started indoors or sown directly in the garden. Cucumbers, Melons, Pumpkins and Squash are fast-growing plants that can be direct sown after the last spring frost, but you’ll get an earlier harvest if you give plants a head start by sowing them indoors about a month before that.

Crops to Sow Directly in the Garden

Sow seeds for the following crops directly in the garden two or three weeks before your average last spring frost date: Beets, Carrots, Mustard, Peas, Radishes, Turnips

Sow seeds for Beans and Corn directly in the garden after the last spring frost date.

For more information on starting seeds, see:
Starting a Vegetable Garden: Secrets to Success
Creating a Planting Calendar for Your Vegetable Garden
How to Start Vegetable Seeds Indoors
Improving Garden Soil

January 26, 2011 · Suzanne DeJohn · 4 Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Gardening in the Winter, How-Tos, Vegetable Seeds

4 Responses

  1. Kevin Kennedy - January 28, 2011

    Are you going to do a post on starting flower seeds too? I can’t do veggies-most of the backyard is shaded by a giant black walnut and the front yard is mostly a 45 degree slope. So I mostly do flowers by the deck and in pots on it.

  2. Suzanne DeJohn - January 28, 2011

    Sure, I can do that. I’ll try to post something in the next few weeks. Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. Denise Kush - January 28, 2011

    If it’s not to much trouble could you email me
    the info on starting flower seeds.
    Thank you very much, dk

  4. Suzanne DeJohn - January 28, 2011

    Starting flower seeds is much like starting vegetable seeds. If you’re new to seed-starting, I’d suggest starting with some easy-to-grow flowers. You can start calendula, cosmos, marigolds and zinnias indoors 4 to 6 weeks before your average last spring frost date. (If you’re unsure of this date, ask a neighbor who gardens or contact your Cooperative Extension Service.) Then follow the instructions on this page, http://www.americanmeadows.com/vegetable-gardening/start-seeds-indoors (These seeds should be planted about 1/4″ deep.)