Ready for Seed Starting?

Starting seeds indoors is a great (and inexpensive) way to fill your garden. It gives you a great opportunity to try new and different varieties of plants, as well as experiment with planting times.

The first thing you will need to do is decide what to plant. If this is your first time sowing seeds, a good plant to try is marigolds: they germinate quickly and are not too picky about their conditions. For the more experienced gardener this is the time to explore the seed racks and see what’s new.  

Take the time to read the seed packets as they contain a lot of important information. The key things to look for are the planting date (often listed as how many weeks before the last frost) and if you are growing vegetables or fruits, the days to maturity. 

Start Indoors: Plant:
10 weeks before last frost Celery, eggplant, leeks, onion, peppers, impatiens, lobelia, verbena and perennials 
8 weeks before last frost Early head lettuce, begonia, coleus, nicotiana, petunia, salvia 
7 weeks before last frost Tomatoes and early basil 
6 weeks before last frost Early leaf lettuce, early cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, kale, and small seeded annuals.
4 weeks before last frost Melon, late basil, cucumber, squash, pumpkin, large-seeded annuals, and flowering vines.
2 weeks before last frost Corn, tender bulbs such as glads, and annual vines such as morning glory
Week of last frost DIRECT SEED beans, carrots cauliflower, cucumber, squashes, heat-loving flowers such as zinnias, marigold, and lavatera. Transplant tomaotes, cauliflower, squash and cucumbers.
1-2 weeks after last frost DIRECT SEED lima beans, soybeans, melons and herbs such as basil, summer savory and sweet marjoram. Start second crop of kale seedlings, and reseed spinach and peas for second crop

 

One of the most common mistakes made with seeds is starting them too early. While it may seem like a good idea to get a head start, your plants may become leggy or spindly, leading to weaker plants. Unless you are prepared to transplant your seedlings into larger pots, it is best to stick to the suggested timelines.

 

If you have the itch to get something started now, consider growing some spouts! They are a great way to enjoy some fresh, homegrown veggies during the long winter months. Try Alfalfa, Radish, wheatgrass, or a salad mix: they are easy to grow and are ready for harvest from 5-12 days. 

Starting seeds indoors is a great family project! You can even make it into a fun experiment and log which seeds sprouted first, then measure them weekly throughout the season to see which plants thrive in our area.

One of the fun things about seeds is there are often many unique plants that aren’t available later as seedlings. You can inexpensively try a new variety or two, or even a new plant every year and see what works for you. Another way to try new seeds out is to see if a neighbour or family member wants to swap a few seeds of another variety and you can decide at the end of the season which you liked better.

After you have selected your seeds, you will need something to plant them in. Seeding trays are often the easiest way to sow seeds, but you can also use peat pellets which can be found at most garden centres. Make sure your tray comes with a lid as it helps to keep the seeds warm and damp during the initial growing period. If you are re-using trays be sure to give them a good wash before starting this year’s seeds.

When starting seeds indoors it is important to use a soil specifically for seeds. These mixes are lightweight and help ensure your seeds do not become waterlogged, or too dry. We recommend Pro-Mix Premium Organic Seed Starting mix. Seeds like consistent moisture, and we recommend using a misting spray bottle to keep them damp.

Once your seeds are planted (and covered) they will need good, bright light. Place them near a bright window, or you can use grow lights.  As soon as your seeds show signs of germination (sprouts) remove the lid or cover to ensure the seedlings receive fresh air. It is a good idea to turn your trays every week so your plants grow straight and don’t lean towards the light. Some varieties of seeds require some extra warmth during the first week or two of germination: place them on top of your refrigerator, or you can purchase a heat mat for seedlings.

The final step for your seeds is to transplant them outdoors. Plants grown indoors need hardening off before they are planted outdoors. After the last frost date, start by setting them outside in a shady, sheltered spot, initially for half a day, then gradually leaving them out all day. Progressively move them into sunnier and windier areas to acclimatize to garden conditions.

Sowing seeds indoors is a great way to try fun new varieties, and a budget friendly way to fill the garden. Don’t just dream about your garden, start your seeds indoors and you will be enjoying it sooner than you think!

January 29, 2021 — Domenic Crupi

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