Wall calendar | marker pen | seed packets | garden reference book
Some seeds are best planted, or sown
(pronounced "SOH-n") right onto the garden soil, outside.
But many garden plants have such
long growing seasons that it's best to give them a head start by getting them
started indoors, when the winter winds are still howling. That way, they'll be
up and running as soon as the last chance of frost has ended, and you are
likely to have more weeks of harvest at the tail end of summer.
You can use the backs of seed
packets, and garden reference books, to discover how many weeks ahead of time
you can start various seeds indoors.
First, make two stacks of your seed
packets: those that can be started indoors, and those that should be started
Take the ones that should be started
indoors, and a wall calendar that will now become your "sowing calendar." Count
back from the date of the last possible frost in your area - often around
Mother's Day in May - and go back that many weeks in your sowing calendar.
Write down the date that you should sow that particular type of seed on the
Then, in the late winter and early
spring, just consult your sowing calendar and you'll know what seeds you should
Good plants for indoor starts:
Many kinds of herbs
Many kinds of flowers
tricky is that some of these plants can be started as seeds indoors as many as 12 weeks before you transplant
them outside as sturdy little seedlings. Whoa! If Mother's Day is your
approximate last-possible-frost date, that means you should start these seeds
12 weeks before Mother's Day. Yikes!
that have long growing seasons before they bear fruit or blossom, such as leeks
and snapdragons, probably SHOULD be started early as seeds. That way, they can
mature. If you start them as seeds in the ground outside in May, they might not
mature until too late to produce as much as they might otherwise.
the other hand, for a number of reasons, other plants - including cucumbers and
sunflowers - should be transplanted just 3
or 4 weeks after you've started them from seed indoors. In fact, if you
wait too long to get these seedlings transplanted and growing outside, they
won't grow well.
Why is this? Seeds
sprout and plants grow at different rates, so timing is very important. Check
the back of the seed packet to find the recommended seed-starting times.
If you plan to start
more than a packet or two of seeds, it helps to chart out a weekly seed-starting
schedule, counting back from the date you plan to set out the transplants.
We call this a "sowing calendar." It helps you keep everything
straight so that when you CAN plant outside, your seedlings will be ready!
Note: petunias, lobelia, marigolds, stock, snapdragons,
ageratum, dusty Miller, coleus, etc. are a few of the most popular flowers that
can be seeded indoors in March. Zinnias, asters and other warm weather flowers
can be started indoors in early April.
VEGETABLES - Leaf crops like spinach, lettuce, chard, cabbage,
cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, plus the others can be started indoors in late
February and March. Cucumbers, squash, pumpkins plus the other warms weather
vegetable can be started indoors in late March and April.
VEGETABLE ROOT CROPS - Sow the seeds of all root crops directly
into the garden. Wait for the soil to warm up a little before seeding outdoors.
Late March or early April is usually a good time for seeding root crops