Fellow gardeners, the growing season is very near. By now, you’ve likely decided what you want to grow and have already selected your seeds. Gather your tools and roll up your sleeves, because it’s already time to give some of your future plants the start they need to flourish.
The following are just some of the seeds that need to be sown indoors early. When in doubt, or if in need of more guidance, I strongly recommend the book Starting & Saving Seeds: Grow The Perfect Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs, And Flowers For Your Garden, by Julie Thompson-Adolf. Gardeners of all skill levels can truly benefit from the advice offered in this resource.
Growers take tomatoes seriously, and well they should. Is there anything more satisfying than picking a fresh, ripe tomato off a vine in your home garden? No; there’s not. Enjoy the abundance of tasty fruit these plants can produce all season long by giving their seeds an appropriate head start.
Start tomato seeds 6-8 weeks before the last frost in your area. They like soil temperatures of about 80°F and will germinate more quickly (in about 4-8 days) with the help of a heat mat. Don’t get too heavy-handed with the water; the seeds prefer moist conditions, never soggy. Consider spritzing the top of the soil with a bottle and adding some water to the bottom of the tray as well. Once the seeds sprout, employ the help of an LED light that hovers about 1” above the seedlings. When true leaves finally appear, take a kitchen fork and transplant into a biodegradable pot 3” in diameter.
Growing eggplant is very similar to growing tomatoes. Their seeds need to be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost, and a heat mat will speed the germination rate if the soil is kept at a temperature of 75-90°F. The seeds will likely begin to sprout in 7-14 days, after which they will need a steady source of light to perform well.
Peppers are a staple in many household kitchens, making them all the more attractive to grow. Be warned that there’s nothing fast about them, though. One year I just about gave up hope on my bell pepper seeds because they took nearly a month to germinate! It wasn’t until almost the end of the growing season that we were actually able to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Start peppers indoors 8 weeks before the last frost, and consider using a heat mat to give the seeds the warmth (70-85°F) they need to sprout. Expect to see some growth within 7-21 days, and when the first true leaves appear, transplant the seedlings to a larger container. Plant them outside after the last frost in fertile, well-draining soil with high levels of calcium and phosphorus.
This is one big family that includes vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale, and more. Brassicas are cool-season crops, but their seeds still need to be started early to ensure the plants have time to harden-off and produce higher yields.
Start these seeds 6-8 weeks before planting them outdoors, keeping in mind that Brassicas can be put into the ground a month before the last frost. When starting the seeds, the optimal soil temperature is usually around 65-75°F, but seeds have been known to germinate at 50°F. Expect to see some action within 7-15 days.
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