Cold-hardy crops go into the ground as early as six weeks after seeding indoors. Start heat-lovers like tomatoes, peppers and melons later, and give them eight to 12 weeks from seed to the garden. Check seed packets for the number of days required before planting outdoors; each edible is unique.
There are two easy steps to start seeds: germination and growing a healthy plant through light.
Light isn’t required for seeds to sprout, but warmth is.
- Fill peat pots, strips and cellular trays with damp seed-starter mix.
- Plant seeds at the depth given on packets. Some seeds are simply scattered on top of the soil.
- Place plastic covers over or wrap trays with plastic wrap to keep moisture evenly spread.
- Move to the top of the refrigerator or set on a plant heat mat. When green sprouts are detected, move plants to a sunny spot.
Strong light is essential for growth.
- Place seedlings in a south-facing window or under grow lights. Lights should be 3” above seedlings and adjusted upward as plants grow taller.
- Keep seedlings under lights for 14 to 16 hours daily for optimum growth. If you can’t afford grow lights, use a 4’ fluorescent light fixture hung by chains over a table. The fixture can be adjusted up and down.
- When plants become root-bound, pot them up into 4” containers and fertilize.
- Remember to harden off before planting outside.