Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How and When to Start Seeds Indoors

The first step to starting seeds indoors is to find the last frost date for the local area. There are handy maps online to locate the last frost date. The last spring frost date is important because the timing to start seeds indoors depends on this date.

When to Start Seeds Indoors

Some seeds are started indoors 4, 6, or 8 weeks before to the last frost date, depending on the type of seed.The seeds are then transplanted outdoors after the last frost date has passed and danger of freezing has passed in that area.
  • Garden seeds started 4 weeks before the last frost date include: cucumbers, endive, and lettuce.
  • Garden seeds started 6 weeks before the last frost date include: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, and kale.
  • Garden seeds started 8 weeks before the last frost date include: eggplant, leek, onions, parsley, peppers and tomatoes.
Garden seeds are often started indoors to get a head start on the growing season. The plants are weeks old before the danger of frost has passed. But, not all garden seeds should be started indoors. Some garden seeds, such as beans, peas, radishes, corn and spinach prefer to be directly sown into the garden soil. Reading the back of the seed package will also give you specific information on when the vegetable seeds can be started.

How to Start Seeds Indoors

Garden seeds can be purchased at most retail stores in the spring. Organic and heirloom seeds are available online and at organic grocery stores or health food stores. In addition to buying gardening seeds, experienced gardeners often save seeds from the fruit of the last crop and store these seeds throughout the winter to use in next year's garden.
Vegetable seeds are usually started in flats or peat pots purchased from the store. In addition to starting them in purchased flats, environmentally conscious gardeners may want to consider reusing household items to start seeds. Some common household items that work wonderfully are used egg cartons, yogurt containers, or paper rolls.
Fill the containers for starting the seeds with soil. The soil can be specialized soil for starting seeds, or composted soil. Leave 3/4 inch of space at the top of the container. Dampen the soil with water. Press the seed into the dampened soil the depth recommended on the seed package. Most seeds should be planted on the soil surface to 1/2 inch below the soil surface, depending on the type. Lettuce and tomatoes, for example, are planted 1/8 of an inch below the soil surface. Do not push the garden seeds too deep into the soil.
Place the planted seeds in a sunny window. The seeds can be covered with plastic wrap or a sheet of glass to maintain humidity while the seeds germinate. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. The seeds should be stored in a sunny window. If enough sunlight isn't available fluorescent lighting can be used to help germinate the seed. In a week or two, depending on the type of garden seed, a small plant will begin to emerge. Thin the seedlings as they grow and transplant them outside to the garden after the last frost date has passed.

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