Whether you’re growing long season vegetables, like eggplants and tomatoes, or short season crops, such as kale and carrots, starting your seeds indoors is one of the best ways to get a jump on your harvest.
The key is to follow the instructions on your seed packet when sowing. Typically, seeds are sown at a depth two to three times the length of the seed.
1. Choose the Right Seeds
When it comes to starting vegetable seeds indoors, there are many factors that go into success. These include seed depth, soil temperature requirements, and water and light needs.
Vegetables that need a long growing season, like Tomatoes and Eggplants, are best started indoors. This is especially true if your area experiences late frosts in the spring.
Tender vegetables, such as Cucumbers and Muskmelon, also require a long growing season. Burpee suggests starting these plants indoors in the spring, about six weeks before the final frost date in your area.
Another cool weather veggie, Kale takes a longer time to mature from seeds. To give your kale the best chance of survival, start the seeds inside 3-6 weeks before you plant them in the garden.
Another slow growing vegetable, cabbage, does well when planted indoors 6-8 weeks before the average last spring frost date. Then, transplant the seedlings into the garden in early spring. Protect them from freezing during the transition.
2. Keep Your Seeds Moisturized
When starting vegetable seeds indoors, it’s important to keep your soil moist. Moisture will help the seeds germinate and prevent rot. Water your seed trays from the bottom so the seeds can soak up water through the porous walls of the container.
Aside from helping your seeds to germinate, moisture also keeps them healthy and nourished during the crucial first weeks they are in their starting cells. It’s a good idea to use sterile, lightweight, moisture-retaining soil that is made specifically for growing vegetable seedlings.
Before filling your containers, pre-moisten the soil mix to within 1/2-inch of the top with a little warm water. This helps the soil to retain water and will help it stay light enough so your seeds can germinate easily.
3. Keep Your Seedlings Well Watered
Seeds of a wide variety of vegetables and herbs are available to grow indoors. The process can be daunting to many gardeners, but with the right tips and knowledge, it’s a simple way to extend your growing season and enjoy more delicious foods!
One of the most important things to keep in mind when starting vegetable seeds indoors is to be sure your potting mix is well-watered. This is best done by keeping a spray bottle or mister handy so you can water as needed while your seeds are germinating.
When your seeds have sprouted, remove the cover and allow some air circulation to encourage their growth. After that, water only when the soil is very lightly moist.
When you’re ready to move your plants outdoors, follow the instructions on your seed packets to acclimate them gradually. They need time to adjust to the changes in weather and sunlight before you transplant them into your garden.
4. Keep Your Seedlings Healthy
When starting vegetable seeds indoors, it’s important to keep them healthy until they are large enough to be transplanted into the garden. A sudden transition from a warm, protected environment to one that’s subject to wind, rain and cold can weaken plants.
The best way to avoid this is by using a sterile seed-starting mix that’s light and fluffy and designed to hold just the right amount of moisture. You can find this kind of seed-starting mixture in most garden centers.
Another great option is to use a seed-starting tray, which are usually made of porous materials that allow water to absorb through the walls. These are ideal for beginners and expert gardeners alike, as they provide easy access to soil-less growing medium.
Transplant your seedlings into individual pots filled with a good, sterile potting mix (such as Burpee’s) when they have 3 to 4 true leaves, or when the roots begin to push through the soil. Once they’re in their pots, you can start fertilizing weekly to encourage strong growth and healthy blooms.