The gorgeous pictures in the seed catalogs have us itching to start gardening but it is still winter outdoors. One project you can do now is start seeds indoors for your summer garden. While some plants can be direct seeded in the garden (peas, beans, four o’clocks), those with a longer growing season than we can provide or long germination times (tomatoes, peppers) are best started ahead of time.
If you only want a few plants, purchasing transplants is probably the way to go. However, if you are planning a larger garden or want to try more unusual varieties, then it’s time to try starting your own seeds.
The first step is choosing what you want to plant and carefully reading the seed packet. This will tell you how many weeks before your outdoor planting date you need to start the seeds, about how long they will take to germinate, and what conditions they need.
To start seeds you will need something to plant in – cell packs, peat pots or cubes, or recycled containers such as yogurt cups or egg cartons with drainage holes punched in the bottom. You will also a need a sterile growing medium. Do not use garden soil. Of course you will also need water and light. Unless you have a greenhouse or at least a greenhouse window you will probably need some kind of artificial light. Shop light fixtures hung from utility shelving work well.
For strong plants, your seedlings should be transplanted at least once before planting outside. At least a week before your outdoor planting date, you should start hardening your plants off by putting them outside in the shade during the day and gradually increasing the time and light.
Written by Joyce Weinberg, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer
For more information,