I love the spring! It contains the hope of a new garden and an abundant harvest.
I discussed in this post what garden vegetables you can start outside with ease —> 9 Best Vegetables to Grow From Seed in Your Garden.
If this is your first year, you should stick with those vegetables. It will be less headache to not start any seeds indoors.
But if you are ready for the next step in gardening, you are ready to start seeds indoors.
What advantage is there from starting seeds indoors?
- You can grow heirloom varieties- There are so many varieties of common vegetables that you don’t see in the grocery store or nursery. Have you seen purple carrots or yellow tomatoes? By using heirloom seeds and starting your own plants, you can try out new varieties of vegetables to make your garden unique and colorful.
- You can extend your growing season- In some places it doesn’t get warm until Memorial Day or it gets too hot during the summer. By starting your plants indoors, you can get a head start on the growing season for bigger vegetable yields.
- It is cheaper than buying plants at the store- Plants at the nursery are usually $2-$5 a piece. You can plant many seeds and they will grow into plants for that same amount. If you want to buy alot of plants, it is much cheaper to start your own at home.
What disadvantage is there from starting seeds indoors?
- You need to think ahead- In order to have enough time to grow your seeds before planting time, you need to be prepared. You need to order or buy your seeds. You need to know your first frost date and count backwards depending on the starting instructions on the seed packet. There is much more planning involved than just going to the store, buying plants and planting them.
- Usually not all of your plants thrive- Sometimes seeds just don’t sprout like they should. It could be too cold, not enough light, not enough time, the wrong amount of water or bad seeds. You aren’t guaranteed that all the seeds you plant will become full grown plants. I usually start more than I need just for this problem.
- It takes up room in your house- Starting seeds can sometimes drive my family crazy! Every available window has seeds sitting in them. You can set up a grow light system, but that times more time and money. Even if you use grow lights, they will take up space in your house and get in your way (most likely). It’s worth it, but it might be annoying for the short term.
What are the best vegetables to start indoors?
When I think of starting seeds indoors, I automatically think of tomatoes. There are so many varieties of tomatoes that that don’t sell the plants for at your local nursery.
For me, tomatoes are the first seeds I start. They can take a long time to grow big enough to plant: probably about 2 months. In that time, you will need to move them to bigger pots as they grow (so the roots have enough room) and every time you repot them, you need to plant them deep in the pot so that most of the stem is covered in dirt.
When you finally plant them outside, lay them sideways and cover all but the leaves and part of the stem. This helps them grow strong and not “leggy”.
You may need to put walls of water around your plants when you first put them outside to help protect them from cold nights. They will also need cages around them so they don’t fall over with the weight of the fruit. It is easier to cage them while they are small than try to prop them up later when they are big and heavy.
The other large quantity of seeds that I start indoors is pepper seeds. Look on the back of the seed packet to see when they suggest you start your pepper plants. Pepper plants need a warm environment to grow, so if you are in a cooler location you will need grow lights. You can try putting them in the window, but it may be too cold for them there at night. I like to grow several varieties of peppers (including bell, jalapeno, and a few hotter peppers). Did you know they have seeds for chocolate colored bell peppers? So fun!
There are several types of onions that you can grow. I like to grow yellow onions for salsa and green onions for cooking. You can start onions early in the spring from seed or you can buy onion starts at the store to start a little later. Start seeds 8 weeks before last frost date.
This plant is one that can take a while to see a result. Asparagus is a perennial plant, which means once you plant it, it will come back yearly and give more plants. But the first year you plant the seed, you won’t harvest anything. You don’t harvest until the second year and from then on.
Asparagus takes more tender loving care than many other vegetables. I have been gardening for several years and I am just starting asparagus this year. I need to find a place where it can stay in the same spot each year. I didn’t use to like eating asparagus, so I didn’t bother growing it. But now I love it (with butter and garlic), so I want to grow it myself. Start seeds 60-90 days before your last frost date.
Cabbage is a cooler weather plant, so you want to grow it in the cool of spring and then again in the fall. For spring, you want to start the seeds ahead of time. For fall plants, you can start from seed in the late summer. There are many beautiful varieties of cabbage and by planting your own seeds you can take advantage of this beautiful vegetable. For spring planting, start indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost date. Transplant when there are 6-8 true leaves.
Did you know that you can grow different colors of cauliflower? Me neither. Forget the boring old white. Try some heirloom varieties in your garden for more color. For spring planting, start indoors 6-8 weeks before transplanting into the garden. Transplant 4 weeks before last frost date. Cauliflower is a cool weather plant, so it can handle cold nights much better than hot temperatures.
Broccoli is much like cauliflower and uses the same directions as cauliflower above. Homegrown broccoli tastes better than the stuff you get at the store.
Brussels sprouts are a cool weather crop as well. Many people find that if they start the seeds in the summer and plant in the fall garden, they do better. They will have a late harvest and usually do well even after the first frost. In fact, a few frosts make them taste better.
I haven’t planted celery before, but I am going to try it this year. Start indoors in February thru April. Transplant well after the last danger of frost is past.
How do I transplant my plants for optimal growth?
Once you have the seedlings started outside, there are some things you need to know to have the best success rate in your transplanting.
- Have good soil- Good soil is key to a vibrant garden. If your soil is too clayish or too sandy, amend it with compost or store bought soil to give your plants a better start.
- Harden off your plants- When plants are living indoors, they get spoiled to the perfect temperature. You need to move the seedlings outdoors for increasing amounts of time over several days to harden them off against heat, sun, wind or any other outdoor problems. If you put them outside directly, they most likely won’t last long.
- Water consistently- Water often, but don’t over water. You soil should be damp but not flooded. This could vary depending on your climate and rainfall.
- Give it time- Sometimes, even after hardening off, plants that are transplanted may wilt in the ground. Sometimes my tomato plants look like they aren’t going to make it the first week, but they usually perk up after that. It takes a little time for them to adjust to their new soil and surroundings. Don’t give up too soon!
If all of this seems too overwhelming, don’t worry. Gardening is a wonderful hobby, but you should start small.
Here are some tips for starting seeds indoors—> Seed Starting for an Abundant Harvest
Your first year, only plant the vegetables you can start from seed (as mentioned above).
The next year, buy plants from the nursery so you can pick the best plants to start with for those that need to be started early.
The third year, choose one type of vegetable to start indoors from seed to see how it goes. In the years after that you can try new varieties and add more types of vegetables.
The point is, don’t try to do everything your first or second year. You will get overwhelmed and maybe even give up on the whole thing! We don’t want you to do that, so take it slow.
What plants do you start indoors? Let us know in the comments below. And if you enjoyed this post, please share! Thanks!