If you don’t live in a warmer area and are unable to start sowing vegetable seeds outdoors anytime soon, it doesn’t mean you can’t make an early start in the garden when spring does finally come. The answer is to start planting seeds indoors so that you will have small plants ready to plant out at the first chance. You will be harvesting these crops several weeks early than if you seeded them directly into the garden.
Germinating vegetable seeds is easy. The don’t need any of the special treatments that trees for example often do and many will be showing their shoots in a matter of days. Keeping those young seedlings growing healthily is a little harder and light is the thing they need most. There are two options – artificial lights, which we have discussed in an earlier blog, and natural light. As spring approaches the days get longer and the sun’s light become more intense, so a sunny windowsill will usually be a great location for your seedlings.
If you are taking the artificial route, arrange it so you can get the plants as close as possible to the lights. Try to raise the pots so they are less than an inch from the bulb, and lower them (or raise the lights) as the seedlings grow
Choosing Vegetable Seeds
There are two types of plants that are usually started early.
- Those that are quite hardy but are sown indoors to give an earlier crop.
- Tender plants, like tomatoes and peppers, which need a longer growing season than is available in cooler growing regions.
Let’s consider the first group now and leave the second group for another time.
Give some thought to what vegetable seeds will do best. There are a few things to consider:
- With the exception of broccoli, cabbage family seeds are not a good choice, because when grown in the short days of spring the plants will quickly start flowering and won’t develop nice dense heads.
- Roots crops are not a good choice either as the roots will become twisted in the pots and not develop a good shape after planting outside.
- All the lettuce varieties are however a terrific choice for an early start
- Onions and leeks work well and take up very little space.
- Celery benefits from early sowing and so do beans and peas.
- Herbs too should be sown early. You may get to use them in the kitchen before you even get to the stage of planting them out.
- Choose varieties which need shorter times to mature – that way you will get greatest benefit from your early sowing. Vegetables have been developed to be ‘early’, ‘mid-season’ and ‘late’ croppers. If you can, choose vegetable seeds which are ‘early’, as these need fewer growing days to reach the harvesting stage.