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  • Writer's pictureJohn Chapin

Sowing Seeds for Spring

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

One of the most rewarding activities for gardeners is growing flowers and

vegetables from seed. This not only saves money, but greatly expands the

selection of plant varieties not usually sold by garden centers. And, the time

for planning indoor seed sowing comes just when cabin fever-suffering

gardeners are itching to do something, ANYTHING, with plants and

soil…in February! This post focuses on early sowing of vegetables, but

this advice is also good for sowing flowers.

Some vegetable seeds, including those of corn, cucumbers, squash, and

beans, are better planted directly in the ground in late spring or early

summer since they don’t transplant well and are so quick to grow anyway.

Others, like radishes, carrots, peas, lettuces, and spinach grow quickly

from seed in cool weather and can be sowed directly into the garden as

soon as the soil is workable in early spring.

Many of the most popular vegetables make great transplants. Peppers,

cabbages, onions, kale, and especially tomatoes benefit from getting a

jump start with early sowing indoors. Anyone who bought transplants at

garden centers last year can testify to the crazy prices as well as

shortages, and this year should expect the same. Indoor seed sowing is

easy, and practically fool-proof IF a few conditions are met. The most

important factors are light, heat, and air circulation.

sowing seeds

Light: Although some people have good luck sprouting seeds on a

windowsill, even a south-facing window will not provide sufficient light for

most seedlings, especially during the short winter days. Seedlings grow

best with up to 18 hours of strong light daily, and there are many special

“grow lights” on the market. But, I’ve found that inexpensive strip shop

lights, even with LED bulbs work just fine. Set the lights just inches above

the sprouted seedlings and adjust as they grow.

Heat: Most vegetable seeds germinate quicker and grow more strongly with

bottom heat. There are expensive heating pads, but incandescent rope

lights strung under the trays or pots of seedlings work wonderfully.

Air Circulation: Seedlings can suffer from “damping off”, a disease caused

by fungi and other pathogens, and probably the single biggest problem of

indoor seedlings. The easiest solution is to use a fan, set with a timer to go

on every half hour or so, 24/7 for ten minutes. Water your seedlings only

when dry.

Plan and get together seeds and materials now, for late February and early

March indoor sowing!

Important Note: Most novice seed-sowing gardeners make the mistake of putting WAY too many seeds per cell or peat pot when sowing. No more than two or three seeds of any one vegetable (or flower) needs to be in each cell, and after sprouting even then will need to be thinned to just one to allow room to grow and develop. Remember that most seeds are viable for at least another year, if stored in the refrigerator or freezer till next spring, and most seed packets have many more seeds than needed by the average gardener, so storing extra seeds will add to the savings of growing your own vegetables and flowers. Check out the viability of seeds here.

Happy gardening!


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