Starting your garden from seeds is an easy and inexpensive way to get a garden full of vegetables and flowers for not too much work.
Vegetable and flower seeds are inexpensive and you can get packets in late winter and early spring at local stores or online.
Starting your garden inside will give you a jump on spring but what do you need to start your garden indoors?
First you should start by planting those vegetables and flowers that will do well in early spring. Cold weather vegetables such as greens, hearty lettuce, radishes and most vegetables in the broccoli family will do well in early spring so they should be the first seeds that you germinate.
When should you start your seeds indoors?
The best time to start your seeds is about 3 weeks before you can place them out in your garden. So if you know that standard lettuce will wilt if it gets hit by a frost then you want to find out what the last day in the spring will bring a frost and plant your lettuce seeds about 2 weeks before that date.
In the lower mid-atlantic states and most of the southeastern states the time you can begin transplanting is in late march to mid april. In warmer climates you may be able to grow some plants year round but the type of plant that you can grow will change by season.
How should you plant your seeds indoors?
Many gardeners will suggest that you use peet planters… these are the natural planters that look like a brown cardboard that you often see at your local store.
Peet planters will give you a good start because water can be absorbed from their base during the day when you are not around to water and they can be broken apart to allow easy transplanting of your vegetables and plants once they are ready to be placed outside in their permanent home.
The drawback to peet planters is their cost and for that reason I normally keep the plastic planter sets that I purchase my tomato plants in. I keep them and wash them well with a mild bleach to kill mold that harms young plants then store them for next season.
You can usually get two seasons out of the six pack plastic starter packs if you are careful how you store them.
Fill the planters with soil from your garden that has been mixed with a small amount of peet moss if you have some on hand. You normally do not need to go all the way with sterile potting soil but it is a good way to make sure you are not inviting bugs into your home.
You should overplant your starter pack cells with 3 to 4 seeds because not all of your seeds will start and you can thin out the ones that don’t … but if you have empty cells then you will have to wait many days for new seeds to start.
So over plant a couple seeds in each pot partition unless you are buying a special heirloom tomato pack that only comes with 20 seeds per pack then you want to plant 1 or 2 seeds per cell depending on how many starter packs you have to waste space in..
You can keep your seeded planters in general light with 60F minimum heat and covered with plastic to keep them moist and the light off of them until the seeds sprout through the soil.
Once they have sprouted you must remove the plastic and give them full light and lots of water.
Caring for your seedlings
It will take between 2 and 3 weeks before your plants are large enough to transplant or move outside. Some plants may even take a month before they develop a good root system.
Caring for your plants inside means that you want to put them in the room with the best light.
Your plants will need at least 6 hours of bright light every day.
If you can place your plants on a cart near a door you may want to bring the plants outside once the temperature gets above 60F without much wind. Wind will cause wind chill so if it feels cold to you .. then it is cold to your plant.. cool is not bad but cold is.
Feeding is important but you do not want to overfeed small plants.
You should use a water soluble plant feed after the plants have started to grow leaves. Cut the solution by 50 to 70% and do not use it full strength. Only one feeding should be necessary unless your plants are indoors more then a month.