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How & When to Plant Garden Seeds

Successful gardening depends on some important factors. All seeds require certain conditions in order to survive and produce a healthy, mature specimen. Many varieties of garden plants grow from new seeds planted directly in the soil or from seeds started indoors before transplanting into the garden. Knowing when to plant seeds ensures a healthy start for garden plants. Using the correct planting techniques provides each seed with an optimum chance for survival.

Determine which climate zone you reside in. Climate zones provide information on individual growing seasons for different locations. Northern areas of the United States experience the coldest climate zones and the shortest growing seasons. Check your location by looking at the plant hardiness zone map provided by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Select plant seed varieties suitable for growing in your particular zone. Choose short-season annuals and hardy perennials for Northern sections of the United States, and select long-season and tender perennials for planting in the South. Purchase seeds that are freshly packaged and designated for the current year.

Provide a longer growing season by planting certain varieties of seeds indoors in the early spring. Begin planting four to 12 weeks before the last anticipated frost in your location. Choose seeds for indoor planting that have a long growing season and seeds that are too small to plant directly into the garden. Purchase seed flats or pots to start garden seeds indoors. Fill each pot with sterile potting soil to a level slightly below the rim. Press a few seeds into each pot according to package directions for depth of planting. Water your seeds after planting them. Place seed pots or seed flats in a warm, sunny location. Keep soil slightly moist while seedlings develop indoors. Help your plants acclimate before transplanting by setting them outside for a few hours every day for a period of seven to 10 days before placing in garden soil. Transplant into prepared garden soil after all chance of frost has passed.

Plant large garden seeds and short-season varieties directly outdoors. The best time to plant cool-season vegetables is during the early spring. Cool-season vegetables, such as peas and carrots, tolerate light frosts. Wait to plant other seeds until all chance of frost has passed. Prepare the garden soil by removing all prior vegetation and raking the surface to form a smooth bed. Plant each seed according to package directions. Water well after planting and continue to keep soil moist through germination. Aggressive weeds pose a threat to baby seedlings. Pull all weeds as they appear in the garden soil.

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