It’s seed-sowing time! But what’s the best way to start seeds? How do you even begin? In this article (with new video demonstration!), we’ll show the curious how it’s done! Let’s sow some seeds together, talk through the best ways of encouraging them to germinate, and expose a few common mistakes.
The Hindi word for seed is bija, which translates literally as “containment of life.” An apt description for 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 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-weather crops) before summer heat stifles growth.
- If you don’t seed 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.
- There is a much wider range of varieties 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 ofIt’s not just warm-season vegetables that can be started from seed. Many vegetables—such as carrots and radishes—do best when started from seed, as they dislike having their roots disturbed once they start growing. See our list of which seeds are best started indoors versus outdoors below. chemicals. You can time the plants to be ready for when you want to plant them.
Which Seeds Should You 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.
Consult the table below to see which crops are typically started indoors and which are typically started outdoors. Keep in mind that there isn’t a hard-and-fast rule about what you can start indoors and outdoors; it varies by your experience, your personal preference, your location, and the plant itself. In general, we find that:
- Crops that are best started indoors include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and tomatoes. Those with a 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 outdoors or in containers include cucumbers, muskmelon, pumpkins, squash, and watermelon. 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 do not like to be transplanted; examples include dill and parsley.
- Finally, plants like radishes and peas are so fast growing and cold tolerant that it just makes sense to get them right in the ground!
Mark Ridsdill Smith is the container gardening genius behind Vertical Veg. He’s grown £900 worth of veg in a single year on just his small balcony and windowsills in central London, transforming depressing concrete “gardens” into thriving green areas teeming with life and edible plants. And he is showing us all how it’s done.
Vertical Veg is essential reading for anyone feeling limited by their lack of space or uninspired by their surroundings. Mark always finds a way to make gardening accessible and fun, no matter how unpromising the area might look to begin with.
- I know this is an unpopular opinion.
- But can we stop buying plants from Costco? Or any other windowless wholesale club
- Consider buying plants that are sold outdoors, that are not wrapped in plastic/kept