With warm weather a few weeks away, the months of January and February are when many gardeners across the country start to plan for their upcoming season. Whether you manage acres of farmland, or just a small plot of green space, gardeners all over can benefit by starting seeds indoors well before the planting season officially begins.
Starting seeds indoors can be both a budget-friendly and effective way to have a healthy garden come spring and summer.
But if you’re new to seed starters, how do you proceed, and what do you need to know?
Start with these common FAQs that will outline the basics of starting seeds indoors. Any gardener can get a jumpstart on the 2019 planting season. And green-thumbed enthusiasts can enjoy a bit of gardening all year long!
FAQs for Starting Seeds Indoors Before Planting in Your Garden
Why should you start seeds indoors?
Starting seeds indoors can give your upcoming crops a head start on the season. It allows tender seedlings to thrive in a stable and controlled environment, without the risk of frost or outdoor pests.
For casual gardeners, starting seeds indoors is also less expensive. You can avoid buying already established plants to transplant into the ground when the warmer weather officially arrives. In addition, in regions of the country with a shorter growing season, (particularly the northern states), starting seeds indoors first can actually extend your season, leading to a longer harvest.
What supplies do you need?
The supplies you’ll buy all depends on the size of your garden, your local climate, and the produce you want to grow in 2019.
A local gardening shop or garden market can provide a lot of help when it comes to specifics.
But generally speaking, you’ll need:
- Either plastic or biodegradable (peat) containers or trays
- A clear plastic cover, (although loosely fitting and elevated plastic wrap can work too)
- Special interior lights, or a well-lighted interior area
You’ll also want to pick up some nutrient-rich potting soil, (there are lots of varieties designed for veggies). And, naturally, you’ll buy the packets of seeds you’d like to grow in 2019!
Which seeds can be started indoors?
If you’ve never tried starting seeds indoors, start with a few reliable and hardy varieties of seeds, such as peppers, tomatoes, basil, and marigolds. Tip – blooming marigolds are also a great natural pest preventer both inside and outside in your garden!
Note that there are some vegetables, and especially root vegetables like potatoes and carrots, which can be started indoors. But these tend to perform better being sowed directly into the ground. Root vegetables can also withstand a frost or two, which makes them safer to plant outside early.
When should you plant your indoor seeds?
Generally speaking, you should initially plant your seeds about 6-8 weeks before your last estimated spring frost date.
If you’re not sure where this falls on the calendar, talk to your local landscaping and garden market pros, or pick up a Farmers’ Almanac for a little guidance.
When should you transplant your seedlings?
When the seedlings have gotten too large for their trays or containers, and if you see visible roots when you remove the condensed soil from the tray, then it’s time to put your seedlings in the ground to give them more room to breathe and grow. If it’s still too early to plant outdoors, you can also transplant your seedlings to larger containers as needed.
Along the way, you’ll want to thin out any excess seedlings to let the stronger plants in each individual container thrive, and you’ll also want to “harden” your plants before putting them outside, which entails placing them outside for a few hours every day to allow them to get used to the new outdoor climate.
What about watering?
If you use a well or municipal water, or if you have hard water, then you may want to look into acquiring a rainwater harvesting system to help your indoor plants thrive.
Excess chemicals, sediments and minerals in tap water can deter growth and can stunt seedlings, and you’ll want your seedlings to eventually get used to all outdoor weather conditions – which includes fresh rainfall. A rainwater harvesting system allows you to apply the freshest water possible throughout the growing process, which can benefit plants more than anything else.
Starting seeds indoors can be a fun wintertime project for gardeners, with potentially big results. Start small as needed if you’re new to the process, use care to provide the best quality water and soil, and get a head start on your 2019 garden well before the spring officially arrives.