What Seeds NeedSeeds are generally hardy, but to start them properly they do need gentle nurturing so they can produce healthy, vibrant plants. In general, seeds should be started 4-6 weeks before the recommended planting time so the seedlings will be large and strong enough to withstand the stresses of transplanting. However, some seeds should be started 8 or even 12 weeks before transplanting. Check the seed packet for recommended seed starting times. Use DAIRY DOO® Seed Starter 101 mix which is light enough to encourage rich root growth. Sow the seeds thinly and cover lightly with the starter mix. Water using a fine spray but do not soak the seeds – they also need oxygen to germinate, and if they are overwatered they will drown. Cover the container with clear plastic, such as the Jiffy® Gro Dome seed tray cover, to hold the moisture and increase humidity. Place the containers in a warm (70-80 degrees) spot and watch daily for germination. Use a Jump Start® Seedling Heat Mat sized for the number of trays you are starting. The top of the refrigerator is a good alternative warm location for germination. When the first seeds germinate, place the seedlings in bright light or under artificial grow lights (tube lights should be 2-3” from seedling tops) for several hours each day, since late winter sunlight will not usually be sufficient to prevent weak, leggy seedlings. Daytime temperatures should range from 70-75 degrees. Night time temperatures should range from 60-65 degrees. Use the Jump Start® Seedling Heat Mat to keep the soil warm.
As Seeds GrowWhen the seedlings develop their first true sets of leaves, add water soluble fertilizer to their water – Monty’s® Plant Food is great to use. Repeat every second week to provide good nourishment. Thin the seedlings or transplant them to larger containers as they grow. Before planting outdoors, harden-off the plants at least one week before the planting date. Take the transplants outdoors in the daytime and bring them in at night if frost is likely. Gradually expose them to lower temperatures and more sunlight. The use of hotcaps and frost blankets to cover early plantings will also aid in the hardening off process so the seedlings can adjust well to their new outdoor environment.
Transplanting SeedsTransplant seedlings into the garden after the safe planting date on a calm, overcast day. Pack the soil around the transplant with as little root disturbance as possible. Sprinkle the plants with water, keeping the soil moist until the plants become established.
Popular Indoor Seed Start DatesThe exact dates you want to start seeds will vary depending on your local growing season, the varieties of plants you choose and what their needs are. In general, dates for the most popular plants include…
Vegetable Seed Starting Dates
- February – Celery, onion
- March 1 – Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce
- March 15 – Eggplant, peppers, tomatoes
- April 1 – Summer squash
- April 15 – Cantaloupes, cucumbers, watermelon, winter squash
Flower Seed Starting Dates
- January/February – Begonia, geranium, impatiens, nicotiana, pansy, rudbeckia, salvia, snapdragon, verbena
- March 1 – Ageratum, dahlia, dianthus, petunia
- April 15 – Aster, calendula, celosia, marigold, zinnia