Starting seeds indoors gives you variety – and saves lots of money. Plus, you get to try new edibles while jump starting the growing season.
Cold-hardy crops go into the ground as early as 6 weeks after seeding indoors. Start heat-lovers like tomatoes, peppers and melons later, and give them 8-12 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 seed starting – 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 14-16 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.