Yes, it is time to prepare for starting vegetable seeds indoors. Inspired by the stack of seed catalogs many of us have seed packets awaiting attention. Seeds will need clean containers, a sterile starting mix, regular moisture, and adequate lighting to develop into sturdy and healthy transplants.
Timing for planting seeds should be coordinated with the last frost date. In the Marengo-Union area it is not unusual to have frost or deeply cold weather between mid-May and Memorial Day. Experience has taught us that starting seeds too early involves more effort in up-planting as seedlings grow ever larger. It’s hard to resist the temptation to get plants into the garden on the first warm, sunny days of Spring but it is wise to wait.
Seed packets contain all the information for starting the seeds. Follow the directions for the depth to plant the seeds. Plan for some seeds not to germinate and others not to survive. If you have 100% germination and survival the extra plants can be shared with others.
Plant seeds in moistened starting mix and cover the container with plastic to retain moisture until germination. Most seeds require average room temperature but, check the seed packet for the appropriate temperature and any special conditions. Do not let the soil dry out and remove the plastic when seeds have sprouted.
The biggest challenge to starting seeds indoors is providing enough bright light to avoid leggy plants. Sunlight is the perfect balance of wavelengths necessary for plant growth but, you can also use artificial light to promote germination. A shoplight, grow light or bright sunny window will be required. As seeds germinate, monitor the container for moisture. Avoid getting the seedlings wet to prevent damping off disease which will lead to the plant’s demise.
As the plants reach the stage where they have two pair of true leaves it will be time to start up-planting them into individual larger containers. Plastic cups work well for this, but, be sure to provide a drain hole. Seedlings will soon be ready for transplanting.