How to Start Seeds Indoors for the Spring Garden

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Certain spring garden seeds can get an early start indoors in February or March, while annuals can get their start later. Learn which seeds to start indoors in this free video on winter garden care.

Part of the Video Series: Winter Garden Care
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Video Transcript

I'm Marci Degman, The Aspiring Gardener, and today we're going to talk about starting seeds indoors for the spring garden. And there's a lot of different ways to approach this. But the number one question that I'm asked is when to start your seeds. In most areas we start in February and the way to figure that out is to determine on the back of your seed packet how many days your vegetables are going to take from the time that you sow them until maturity and you have to match that up with your gardening season. So, some vegetables are much better off put it into the ground in the spring and can make it all the way to maturity before you have to worry about it. So, the ones that you want to start indoors are the ones that have a really long time from seed to the table. So, a lot of those tomatoes, peppers, hot season types of things that need to have a lot of time outside, either you want to start them in early in February or you want to buy those plants in the spring as big as you possibly can because in a lot of the parts in the country they need all the hot weather they can get to mature in the fall. So, what you have to do is a little bit of trial and error, but for those seeds that you do want to start indoors, it's usually February or March and what you want to do is you want to pick things that are known to do well. Basil is a good one; tomatoes like I said, peppers, perennial herbs are a good ones to start indoors because they take sometimes a year to become a, a nice plant. So, you can start perennial herbs. Annual herbs are started later. If you want to have basil in the house in the winter, you can go ahead and start that. But that one is a fast germinator, so I would wait awhile on basil. But, things that have a long season, you want to start in February. Now, another couple of points that I wanted to make is that, I have a lot of seeds that I have used partly this year and I've saved over for the next year. You can use your seeds for two years. Just make sure that, that you close it up good and that you keep it in a cool dry place and your seed will be good for way beyond that; but, I usually try to keep it within a two-year period. And you're going to want to have really small tools, so I always use kitchen tools when I'm doing seeds. So, it doesn't cost a lot; seeds are inexpensive. I always get my seed from sources that are from the state that I live in. So, try to, to get seed that has been produced in your state. That way, those plants are going to have the best chance to do well for you where you live. And what I do, I like to use a pot for things that I'm going to grow outdoors like herbs. And what I do is I put just a regular planting soil mix. Now, a lot of people like to add a little bit of sand or they like to buy sterile potting mix. And that is because seedlings are very vulnerable and can die from all kinds of diseases. I've never had a real problem with it, but if you're worried about that, buy seed starting soil. I like to use terracotta because it has a breathability that other types of pots don't have and always drains well. It does tend to dry out a little faster; so, you do want to keep an eye on that. Whenever you're starting seeds, you want to keep it moist at all times. And what a lot of people like to do is keep a spray bottle right nearby and spray the top of the soil while they're real small; keep that top layer moist. Then, once they start to grow roots, then, you go and you can water more thoroughly. If you're going to leave plants in containers throughout the summer, I like to start them in the pot that they might stay in. That way, I don't have to disrupt them by taking them out. So, this is kind of a pretty good example would be dill which doesn't have to be planted in a container at all; but I like to plant some of these and use them throughout the year. I just want to kind of show you how small they are. So, what you want to do is just take your fork and lift the soil just enough for these tiny little seeds to be covered up. You don't want to cover them by a whole lot. For things that are a little bit larger, like this radish seed, for this is a little bit bigger, you want to plant them a little bit deeper. Look on the back and most seed packets will tell you whether they need to have sunlight in order to germinate. If they do, barely cover the top. If it does say to plant them deeper, do it. So, each one is a little bit different and there's a lot of good information on the back. Now, what you want to do if you don't want to leave them in containers, I like to start them in a pot like this and then, once they are thinned, I like to take the larger seedlings and then I like to put them in a pit pots or pots that I can bury right into the ground. That way, you don't have to disrupt the seedlings anymore than possible. So, February is the time to start the seed, keep them moist, don't fertilize until you have an actual plant because they'll grow too fast and becomes spinly. Keep them in a sunny area in your house. Keep them warm above sixty degrees and you'll have plenty of seedlings for spring.

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