Planning for the Spring Planting Season, Part 4: Seed Starting Tips

I just love the month of March. Daylight savings is coming up and the days are getting longer, the frigid weather is beginning to melt away, and the trees are starting to bud. March is also the official start to the spring planting season in many hardiness zones, including here in zone 7b. There are many types of fruits, vegetables and flowers that can be direct sown in March. My favorites are listed here in my blog from last year, What Can I Plant In March?

For seeds that are not quite ready to go in the ground yet, or ones that do not have a lot of success when they are sown directly in your garden, March is a good time to start your seeds. The term “seed starting” refers to the process of  planting your seeds indoors, in a safe and temperature controlled environment. Then, once the seeds have sprouted into seedlings, they can be transplanted outside into your garden. There are several good reasons to start your seeds indoors, including:

  • Seed starting gives you a head start. You can plant seeds inside while the ground outdoors is still hard, and while there is still the danger of seedling-killing frost in your area.
  • Vegetables that like cooler temperatures, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and head lettuce will grow better when started indoors. This is because they can go from transplant to harvest before the hottest days of the summer set in.
  • If you buy seedlings from a garden store, it is much, much more expensive than growing your own seedlings then transplanting them. Plus, when you buy seedlings, you are limited to the mainstream varieties that are available. When you start your own seeds, you can use any seeds you want.

Now depending on where you live, you may be able to start your seeds right away, or you may have a little ways to go. The best way to tell when you are ready to start your seeds is to count backwards from when you typically receive your last frost.

  • Eggplants and peppers- Start your seeds 7 weeks before your last frost date. Transplant the seedlings outdoors 2 weeks after you receive your last frost.
  • Tomatoes- Start tomato seeds 6-8 weeks before your last frost date. Tomato seedlings can be planted outdoors as soon as your last chance of frost has passed.
  • Squash, cucumbers, melons, and pumpkins- All of these plants generally like heat. You can start your seeds indoors 3 weeks before the last frost date. Wait 2 weeks until after the last chance of frost has passed to transplant your seedlings outdoors.
  • Corn- Start corn seeds 5 weeks before your last frost date. Transplant the seedlings as soon as the last chance of frost has passed.
  • Broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage- These are cool season vegetables, so they can actually go in the ground up to  a month before the last chance of frost has passed. These cool season veggies can be started indoors 5-7 weeks before you want to transplant them. Then the seedlings can be transplanted in your garden 4-6 weeks before the last frost.

For more tips on how to start your seeds, please visit my articles:

Tips for Starting Your Garden With Seeds

Tips for Growing Heirloom Tomatoes From Seeds

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