It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!!
Seed starting time.
As we begin to feel more sunshine lingering throughout the day, and the snow begins to melt (fingers crossed), I get this overwhelming desire to start seeds.
While it may still seem early, there are some plants that benefit from being started indoors in late February/early March. The extra time gives them time to germinate and grow slowly into little plants that can tolerate our northern climate. Vegetables that can be started early include sweet and hot peppers and eggplants. Other plants such as perennials or native plants also benefit from the additional growing time inside; think Echinacea or milkweed. Plants started this early may also benefit from the additional warmth of a seedling heating pad which warms the soil to aid with germination and growth.
A little bit later on, perhaps 6 weeks before the last frost, is a good time to start tomatoes. Tomatoes tend to be vigorous in their growth, and I have tended to end up with some monstrous plants before the soil has warmed up enough to plant them outside. This creates more work for the gardener overall (more soil, bigger pots, more watering), so timing your planting with the last frost date in your area is a good idea. Here in eastern Ontario, Canada, we like to follow the May 24 rule as being a safe date for tomatoes and many other plants to go in the ground.
Plants that grow quickly such as beans and squash may not need to be started indoors. While you can, start them, beans tend to grow extremely quickly, and squash do not like having their roots disturbed. What you gain by planting indoors may be lost by a difficult transition to the outdoors. If you end up having to wait for warm weather a little later than usual (a colder spring), you may end up with huge beans or root bound squash inside. Starting these seeds outside in the ground after the soil has warmed and danger of frost has passed is a good idea.
Seed starting is so exciting and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s important to plant what can be managed easily indoors so it doesn’t become too much work and take the enjoyment out of it, and also to remember that the season is long, and some plants would prefer to be planted outside anyways.
Find some seeds and seed starting soil mixture and try planting some seeds in an old egg carton or some small pots. You’ll be amazed at how seeing a little bit of green shooting up from the soil can give us hope that spring is on its way. A little later on this little plant will provide you some much appreciated, self-grown, food or medicine!