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.
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
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.