A Cheat Sheet for Fool Proof Seed Starting
It is mid-February as I am writing this post and just like most Northern gardeners, I am itching for the new growing season to start. On sunny days, I walk in my sleeping garden, looking at the frozen soil with longing. It seems so long since I last ran my hands over the lush, silky smooth feel of healthy leaves and nurtured a crop of beautiful, vibrant plants.
Gardening is as much a part of me as walking, talking and breathing. This is my sanctuary, that one special place in the world where I can truly connect with the natural world and summon abundance and beauty from the simplest tool: seeds, water, sunshine and earth.
But there is an art to gardening that is hard to learn. The art of timing, with its hard lessons to learn and its share of frustration should one make a vital mistake.
Knowing when to start seedlings, either inside or directly outside, is such an art.
Start your seedlings too late and you risk the plants not having enough time to mature and produce a plentiful harvest. Start them too early and the large plants will not adapt readily to your garden's condition, resulting in stunted growth and reduced yield.
It seems to the beginner that success rests on a thin edge, with little room for error, especially for those living in short growing seasons, where time is always of the essence. Timing is important, yes, but it isn't really complicated. All one needs to know to plan a great crop of healthy seedlings is a few key dates. Two, to be exact.
The first and most important date will be your last frost date. This is the last average date in the spring when your particular location experiences a frost. The second date of importance is your first Fall frost date.
There is a number of ways to figure out your last frost date, the easiest and by far would be to just Google it! So, let's do just that!
Now that you have your last frost date in hand, let's look at the nifty little chart below to figure out when you need to start those precious seeds indoors under grow light.
Easy, wasn't it? Yes and no. This chart gives you valuable information for most commonly grown plants that are usually started indoors as seedlings and then transplanted out in the garden when the weather is pleasant enough for them.
Most of us think of eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash as warm weather plants and rightly so. Those plants are all sensitive to cool weather and in the case of eggplants and peppers particularly, should not be transplanted outside until at least 2 weeks past the last frost date or when night time temperature do not run lower than 50 F.
Some transplants, though, do not mind a bit of cold weather, even some frost. Members of the brassica family are famously cold resistant and should be transplanted 2 weeks before the last frost date in most places.
Lettuces can be started indoors as transplants, but can also be direct sown, same as beets and rutabagas.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to gardening, only guidelines for you to experiment with. Just keep in mind the general requirement for each of the crops you want to grow and sow some seeds. You might discover your very own "secret sauce" to the garden, making the envy of you neighbors and family along the way!