You don't have to wait for the temperatures to rise to get started on your spring garden. Many gardeners, beginners and experts, start planting seeds during the winter to get their gardens going right away when the weather is right. Starting your seeds indoors can be a great way to ensure you get the most out of your garden this year. How can you do it? We break it down into a few easy steps.
1. Plan What You Want To Plant
The first and biggest step is to decide what you are planting this year before you start. Many flowers and greens do well when the seeds are started indoors but you have to make sure you check if your fruit and vegetable choices are suitable. Some vegetables should not be started indoors and can be very difficult to move if you make that mistake. Check out a planting calendar or other resources from the Farmers Almanac to make good choices from the start.
2. Gather Materials
The next step is to plan out what you need and hit the store! First you will obviously need seeds but then grab some potting soil or ideally some seed starting mix and pots or containers with drainage holes. Making sure your seedlings have good drainage is a must!
3. Plant Your Seeds
Once you have your materials you can start to plant your seeds. While planting keep in mind that you will be moving these seedlings outside in a few weeks so make sure they aren't too deep or in a difficult to transition container. Check the instructions and recommendations for the specific seeds to see how deep they should be planted but a good rule of thumb is to plant them 3x as deep as they are wide.
4. Care For Them
For the first few weeks keep your seeds moist and in a warm place. Make sure they are regularly watered but not saturated. Once they sprout you will want to move them to a location near a window that has ample sunlight. You can also use fluorescent lamps as supplemental lighting if you don't have a ton of natural light. During this stage it is best they are kept somewhere on the cool side.
5. 'Harden Them Off' Then Plant Outside
When it looks your seedlings will be moving outdoors prepare them for their new location by 'hardening them off.' This simply means cut off fertilizer and water them less often so they can get used to the conditions of the outdoors. A few days before you permanently transplant them keep them outdoors so they can acclimate.