Do not despair if you have tried starting vegetable seeds indoors and failed. It is not as hard as you might think. Even if you are a beginning gardener, it is neither hard nor impossible. It just takes a little different consideration than planting directly into the ground.
The benefit of starting vegetable seeds indoors is the added four to six weeks of growing time. Due to different climates and certain vegetable needs, starting seeds indoors is the way to go. Vegetables started from seeds will be able to withstand the hot summers better than those planted directly into the ground because of the added growing time. Cool weather plants fare better as well because they will have matured and produced vegetables before the weather gets too hot.
Seeds are much cheaper than buying even small seedling plants. However, more time is involved than just running to the nursery and buying plants to plant directly into the ground.
Purchase a light potting mix that includes vermiculite or buy germinating potting soil and seeds. Try your hand at tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash or cantaloupe at first. These are the easiest to grow. You will also need popsicle sticks, plastic wrap and containers.
Purchase a seedling tray that has individual cells so that each plant is grows in its own space. A seedling tray that has 20 cells will hold multiple plants, such as five squash, five peppers, five tomatoes and five cucumbers. This allows the root balls to grow undisturbed and be healthier for transplanting when the time comes.
Time Frame and Directions
Calculate an approximate date for starting seeds indoors. The date you plant seeds should be about six weeks before the last frost. In other words, if your area receives its last frost approximately the end of March, start your seeds the middle of February. It is not worrisome if your seedlings have to wait eight weeks, as mother nature is not on an exact schedule.
Fill each pot or cell with moist potting soil. Press one or two seeds into the soil in each cell. Sprinkle more potting soil on top to ensure the seeds are covered. Mark a popsicle stick with the type of vegetable and place into the side of the cell.
Place the entire tray into a sealable bag and set near a sunny window. Do not place directly in sunlight until sprouts are growing. Do not water at this time.
When the seeds have sprouted, remove the tray from the bag and sit in a sunny location. Remove from the window if the nights are still cold, as you want to prevent too much temperature change. Use a spray bottle to mist the top of the soil only when the soil begins to dry out. Alternatively, place the tray in a larger tray and fill the bottom tray with water so the plants are receiving water from the bottom. Be careful with this method, as you do not want the seedlings to get soggy.
Take the tray outside for approximately two hours in the warmest part of the day after six to eight weeks. Continue this for about two weeks, increasing the time outdoors every two to three days until the seedlings are tough enough to withstand a permanent location outdoors.