Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.

Starting Seeds For Spring

3/29/2013 2:52:03 PM

Tags: indoor gardening, seed starting, vegetable garden, Maryann Robinson

basil seedlingsHello again. I’d like to talk about seed starting. I plant a vegetable garden outside every spring and I like to start all my vegetable and herb plants from seed instead of buying plants in the spring. It’s much cheaper (unless you are a seed-o holic and go mental with the seed catalogs and order everything in sight like I do) and you get a far greater variety of plants to choose from.  Many of the seed catalogs I like to order from start arriving in December or January which gives me plenty of time to go through them and choose what I want. I like to try different varieties each year but I’ll always make room for my favorites

In my garden I generally grow tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash (usually summer but sometimes winter as well), corn, cucumbers, onions, beans, broccoli, lettuce, Swiss chard, beets, & carrots. All these different types of plants require a specific planting time and method. I am in Massachusetts so the times I specify will only be accurate in the New England area. The last frost date here is Memorial Day (May 31st) and if you’re from NE you know you NEVER plant anything (cold weather crops excluded) in the ground before then. I jumped the gun one year and it snowed a week before Memorial Day killing everything.

I use T5 fluorescent grow lights, such as a Sunleaves Pioneer Jr. Lighting fixture, for everything I start indoors. T5’s are higher output fluorescent lights that help prevent the seedlings from getting too tall and “leggy” due to lack of light. Having that stronger light allows you to keep the seedlings indoors longer and still have strong, healthy plants to transplant outside. I use a light well draining soil like Pro Mix or Black Gold Seedling Mix to germinate the seeds in. The seedling trays are covered with a plastic dome to keep the moisture and heat in and, in most cases, placed on a seedling heating mat. Many types of vegetable seeds require heat to insure germination so the heat mat regulates the temperature of the tray 10 to 20 degrees above the ambient temperature. To accurately maintain a specific temperature for your seedlings I suggest getting a seedling heat mat thermostat.  If you look on the back of the seed packets most will list planting instructions including the ideal temperature for germination.

The first seeds I plant every year are the onions. They take the longest. I’ll start them around early to mid February that gives them more that 3 months to geminate and grow before I plant them outside. I start them in the 3 inch standard tray inserts. I’ll generally poke 9 separate holes in each 3 inch pot and put a seed in each hole. I separate them out later when I put them in the ground. Onions do not need a seedling heat mat underneath them to aid in germination like many other seeds do.

Next I plant peppers and broccoli around the beginning of March. These have to be in separate trays because the peppers require a heat mat to raise the temperature to around 85 to 90 degrees whereas the broccoli doesn’t need a heat mat at all. The broccoli is one of the few plants that can be planted outside before Memorial Day. Usually around the end of April is a good time.

Next comes the tomatoes, and eggplant. These can be started in the same tray because they have the same requirements. Temperatures around 75 to 80 degrees are best for germination. I start my tomatoes and eggplant right around mid to late March

The last round of seeds I plant indoors are the squashes, cukes, melons, pumpkins, and lettuces. All except the lettuce can be planted together around 2-3 weeks before planting them outside. So, in my case, around mid May. The lettuce does not need a heat matt but the squashes etc will need a temp around 75 to 80 degrees.

The last things I plant are the vegetables that prefer to be direct seeded. Meaning they don’t like to be transplanted so it’s better to plant them directly in the garden. All of your root crops fall into this category, carrots, beets, radishes, turnip etc. as well as beans. When it comes to carrots and beets I employ the square foot garden method. That means I plant the seeds in individual square foot sections. If you have a limited space you can squeeze so many more plants in if you use the square foot method. Carrots only need to be 2 inches art so you can fit 36 carrots in a square foot!  The beets I plant 3-4 inched apart. Beans I plant 3 inches apart in rows spaced about 1 foot apart. Corn can either be direct seeded or started indoors. If indoors plant them at the same time as the squashes. Plant corn about a foot apart in rows 2-3 feet apart. Always in blocks rather than single rows because corn is wind pollinated and needs to be close together so the pollen will fall from the tassels to the silks. If your daring enough to plant the seeds directly outside do as the old time farmers did, 4 seeds to a hole “one for the cut worm, one for the crow, one for the blackbird, and one to grow” 

Here are a few of my favorite seed catalog websites www.tomatogrowers.com, www.totallytomatoes.com  www.parkseed.com, www.superseeds.com, www.seedsavers.org.

And here’s a list of common veggies and their germination temperatures.

"Till" next time - happy gardening!

VARIETY 

OPTIMUM SOIL TEMPERATURE FOR GERMINATION 

DAYS TO GERMINATE AT OPTIMUM SOIL TEMPERATURE 

Bean, lima

85 degrees F

7 to 10 days

Bean, snap

75 to 80 degrees F

7 days

Beet

75 degrees F

7 to 14 days

Broccoli

65 to 75 degrees F

5 to 10 days

Brussels sprout

68 to 75 degrees F

5 to 10 days

Cabbage

68 to 75 degrees F

5 to 10 days

Cantaloupe

80 to 85 degrees F

5 to 10 days

Carrot

75 degrees F

12 to 15 days

Cauliflower

65 to 75 degrees F

5 to 10 days

Celery

70 to 75 degrees F

10 to 14 days

Collard

70 to 75 degrees F

5 to 10 days

Corn

75 to 85 degrees F

7-10 days

Cucumber

70 to 85 degrees F

7 to 10 days

Eggplant

75 to 85 degrees F

10 to 12 days

Endive

70 to 75 degrees F

10 to 14 days

Kale

70 to 75 degrees F

5 to 10 days

Kohlrabi

70 to 75 degrees F

5 to 10 days

Lettuce

65 to 70 degrees F

7 to 10 days

Melon

80 to 85 degrees F

5 to 10 days

Mustard Greens

70 degrees F

5 to 10 days

Okra

80 to 85 degrees F

7 to 14 days

Onion, bulbing

70 to 75 degrees F

10 to 14 days

Onion, bunching

60 to 70 degrees F

10 to 14 days

Parsnip

70 degrees F

14 to 21 days

Pea

65 to 70 degrees F

7 to 14 days

Pepper

78 to 85 degrees F

10 to 14 days

Pumpkin

70 to 75 degrees F

7 to 10 days

Radish

65 to 70 degrees F

5 to 7 days

Rutabaga

65 to 70 degrees F

7 to 15 days

Spinach

70 degrees F

7 to 14 days

Spinach, New Zealand

75 degrees F

10 to 15 days

Squash, Summer

75 to 85 degrees F

7 to 14 days

Squash, Winter

75 to 80 degrees F

7 to 14 days

Swiss Chard

70 to 75 degrees F

7 to 14 days

Tomato

75 to 80 degrees F

7 to 14 days

Turnip

65 to 70 degrees F

7 to 14 days

Watermelon

75 to 85 degrees F

7 to 14 days

 

 



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