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Starting Seeds Indoors Now for a Spring Vegetable Garden

Get a head start on the growing season by starting seeds indoors. Sure, you have tried to do so in the past and met with fungi, disease and early plant death. Yet if you know when to start seeds indoor, what types of seeds to use and which hardware offers the best odds for success, you, too, may be able to leave earlier disappointments behind. So go ahead and become one of the green thumbs who are starting from seed. I dare you!

Getting the Right Seeds

Starting from seed will be successful if you choose the correct seeds for your area. Although your local big box home improvement store will offer a wide variety of seeds, why not order a seed catalog and buy the types of seeds that are perfect for your growing region?

  • Buy variety with disease resistance in mind. If your yard is famous for the diseases that riddle the produce plants, purchase a variety that promises some disease resistance.
  • Opt for tasty hybrids. If so-so taste has put you off your tomato seeds, buy a hybrid. These seeds are the results of carefully planned cross-pollination by which the seed originator combined the most desirable qualities of two plants. When taste is a major sticking point for you, purchase seeds of hybrids that were bred specifically with fickle taste buds in mind.

Assembling the Planting Hardware

Purdue University horticulturists point to peat pots as great vessels for starting seeds indoors. Since the entire pot can be transplanted into a waiting flowerbed, there is no damage to the root ball when the time comes. Compressed peat pellets are another option. I am not too fond of these pellets, since it is easy to over- or underwater them.

If you have some old newspaper around the house, recycle it by making biodegradable seedling cups from the paper and filling them with a soil mix containing a third gardening soil and two-thirds vermiculite. Use sterilized soil or commercially available gardening soil that does not contain added fertilizers.

Keeping them Cool

If you grow your seeds on the warm kitchen counter, do not be surprised to find that the resulting plants shoot to great heights that are not supported by their stems. Starting seeds in temperatures ranging from 60 degrees Fahrenheit to 65 degrees Fahrenheit at night -- and 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher in the day -- is best. Subtract 10 degrees Fahrenheit for cool season plants.

When to start seeds indoors depends on the germination time. The University of Arizona offers a handy germination chart that offers general timelines to help you start the seeds before the final spring frost occurs. Reading the back of the seed package should also offer you some insight with respect to the amount of time it takes from planting to germination.

Once you are ready to transplant your spring vegetables, be sure to harden off the seedlings. It helps the plants to get accustomed to the uncontrolled temperatures of the great outdoors without killing off the majority of the seedlings. This is a gradual process that takes about two weeks and begins by exposing seedlings to only two hours of shade time in the afternoon. Day after day, you take out the plants and leave them out just a bit longer. Wait for at least five days before you expose them to direct sunlight.

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