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Good morning, and the temperature at 9:00 AM is all ready at 25 degrees. I fed the cats, took out the garbage and the air was warmer. That was nice. High temperature today is clear sky, sun high of 33 degrees low tonight low of 25. Unbelievable from what we had last week. ENJOY…moisture is coming from the south with our southern wind, but looks like southern Iowa might get more. If it is raining and freeze stay safe. And still stay warm.
Now this time of year, when you are shopping you see seed starting kits, soil, seeds and it gets you into the mood to start your own seeds. There is nothing more exciting than that. BUT I want to warn you DON’T START TOO EARLY.
“ Sow too early, and the plants may be ready to leave the pot before it’s warm enough. Sow seeds too late, and they won’t have enough time to reach maturity.”
A Guide to Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors by Catherine Boeckmann
When do you start your seeds indoors? Sow too early, and the plants may be ready to leave the pot before it’s warm enough. Sow seeds too late, and they won’t have enough time to reach maturity. We’ll provide some tips as well as a chart on how many weeks to sow indoors before last spring frost.
The Hindi word for seed is bija, which translates literally to “containment of life.” This is an apt description of these tiny miracles that contain everything needed to make a new plant. This time of year, we are up to our elbows in dirt, starting more seeds indoors each week!
Why We Start Seeds Indoors
There are many benefits to sowing seeds indoors:
Obviously, it gives you a head start on the growing season, which can lead to more fruitful harvests.
It’s actually necessary for a number of plants. Warm-season vegetables—such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant—can’t be planted too early in the spring, as the soil is too cool. In many regions (including New England and the Midwest), there are not enough growing days for those plants to get to harvest if they’re started outside. Starting seeds indoors allows you to gain a few precious weeks of growing time, which can really make a difference. In warmer regions, starting seeds indoors can allow you to get in an extra round of crops (especially cool-season crops) before summer heat stifles growth.
If you don’t start seeds indoors, you will need to buy young plants called “transplants” or “starts” at the garden store or nursery. While some nursery starter plants are grown nicely, others may be of poor quality and don’t thrive once they’re home. When you plant your own seeds, you tend to have healthier starts, since you can care for them from day one.
A much wider range of varieties is available as seeds—things you would never find in a six-pack at the local garden center!
You will know how they have been raised—organically instead of bathed in a wash of chemicals. You can time the plants to be ready for when you want to plant them.
Finally, seeds are much less expensive than buying plants at the garden store.
When to Start Seeds Indoors
As a general rule, seeds are started indoors about six weeks prior to your first frost date.
During a cold spring, it’s better to delay sowing a little to ensure the soil temperature is warm enough than to jump the gun and get disappointing results.
Here are three different tools to find out the best date to start your seeds where you live.
Read your seed packet. Most will list when the seeds should be started indoors (or outdoors). For example, it may say, ”Start indoors 8-10 weeks before the last expected frost date in your area.” You can simply count back from your frost-free date by checking the Almanac’s Frost Date Calculator.
Finally, if you plant your garden with the Almanac online Garden Planner also has all the planting dates and aligns with your entire garden plan for the season. The Garden Planner looks up climate data from your nearest weather station and then uses that to calculate the best range of planting dates for each crop in your plan. It’s nicely color-coded to show you dates for sowing indoors and outdoors, as well as growing and even the harvest period!
Which Seeds to Start Indoors?
Not ALL seeds should be started indoors. In fact, most vegetables grow perfectly well when started outdoors and even prefer not to be transplanted. Ultimately, it’s important to consider how each type of vegetable grows in addition to where you’re growing it.
Crops that are best started indoors include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and tomatoes.
Those with slower root development, like cauliflower, celery, eggplant, and peppers, should also be started indoors.
Tender vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers are very susceptible to the cold temperatures of spring, so it’s best to start them indoors and keep them safe from unpredictable weather.
Plants that do not transplant well and are, therefore, best started in the garden (or in outdoor containers) include cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and squash. These are all tender, however, so refrain from sowing them outdoors while frost is still a threat.
Some plants truly resist transplanting. Root vegetables, like carrots, turnips, and beets, don’t like having their roots disturbed, so it’s usually safer to just start their seeds outdoors in the ground rather than transplant them later on. Plants with long tap roots also dislike being transplanted; examples include dill and parsley.
Finally, plants like radishes and peas are so fast-growing and cold-tolerant that putting them right in the ground makes sense!
More Accurate Timing: Soil Temperature!
While it’s easiest for most people to count back the number of weeks for seed-starting, it’s all based on average or typical frost dates, and frost dates do shift from year to year.
So if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty and improve seed germination, it’s actually soil temperature (not air temperature) that really controls seed germination. Pick up a soil thermometer (available at garden centers) to get a reading.
Most vegetable crops have a minimum germination temperature between 36°F and 60°F (2°C and 16°C), but there is also an optimal range. This is where the difference between cool-season crops (spinach, lettuce, cabbage, etc.) and warm-season crops (eggplant, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers) comes into play. For example, parsnips will germinate best between 50°F and 70°F (10°C and 21°C), but eggplant will germinate best between 75°F and 90°F (24°C and 32°C), tomatoes between 61°F and 86°F (16°C and 30°C), and peppers between 64°F and 95°F (18°C and 35°C).
Taken from https://www.almanac.com/content/starting-seeds-indoors
Till next time this is Becky Litterer, Becky’s Greenhouse, Dougherty Iowa firstname.lastname@example.org 641-794-3337 cell 641-903-9365