photo by Jim Schellman

Is it time to start seeds in your area? To find out, click here.  Then, count back 6-10 weeks from when you plan to plant. This will give you a date range for when to start seeds.

Choose seed packets with instructions that say “sow in spring” or “plant when soil is warm.”  Seeds for root vegetables such as beets, carrots, radishes, etc. are best planted directly in the ground, as the roots grow larger than the containers.  Crops like corn are too labor intensive to transplant and should be planted directly in soil once outdoor temperatures reach 60 degrees.

Many items can be used as containers for starting seeds, as long as they have drainage holes. I use cardboard egg cartons (poke holes in the bottom with a pencil) or I reuse 6-pack containers. Fill with good quality potting mix, (avoid ingredient “sedge peat” which causes soil to stay too wet) and those that contain fertilizer (it may harm seedlings). You can also use a mixture of 1/2 compost to 1/2 potting soil to start seeds.

Home Made Watering Can

Before you plant, read the back of seed packets carefully and note the planting depth.  Large seeds like nasturtiums and peas are planted deeper than tiny seeds like eggplant and lettuce. For seeds that require a planting depth of 1/8 to 1/4 inch, set the seed on top of the soil and lightly sprinkle with soil.

You can make your own watering can out of an old juice bottle by drilling holes in the cap. Water  seeds carefully, as tiny seeds can easily splash out of containers. And don’t forget to label and date your seeds using a permanent marker. Keep seedlings moist until they emerge.

After seeds sprout, the tiny seedlings will need bright light. Put containers in a sunny, south facing window but not in direct sunlight. Most warm season plants prefer night temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees F and daytime temperatures between 70-75 degrees F.   If temperatures get warmer than this, you can end up with leggy (tall and spindly) plants.

Read More in Spring Seed Starting 101 Part 2 of 2