It's been a rough 10 days with back-to-back nor'easters, and another on the way tomorrow. Here at the nursery we are very much ready for spring - even though the weather outside is not cooperating, luckily this is the perfect time to start seeds indoors for this year’s vegetable garden! Whether you’re a seed starting novice, or an old pro, we want you to be well-informed and prepared for the task ahead!
Choose the container
You can start seeds in virtually any kind of container. You can use an open flat system, with small pods all connected together, or you can opt for individual peat pots that will take your plants all the way from seed to your garden. The most important thing to remember is that your containers have good drainage.
Choose the potting mix
A good potting mix is both able to drain water well and hold moisture at the same time. For a homemade version, combine equal parts of vermiculite (use with care as it can be dusty!) and well-screened compost. You can also buy a pre-made seed starting mix (be sure to check the ingredients if you want to keep your plants organic - no synthetic fertilizers). Be sure to moisten the potting mix before filling containers; use warm water and give the mix time to absorb it. Once the water is absorbed, the mix should feel moist but it shouldn't drip. Fill each container or flat with your pre-moistened potting mix. Tap the sides and smooth the top over with your hand - don't pack it down too tightly!
Choose and plant the seeds
Here's where you can get creative - there is a huge variety of seeds out there, ranging from classics and heirlooms to newly released varieties! Be sure to read the package for special instructions and information regarding starting times. Mid to late-March (typically 6-8 weeks before the average last frost date) is a good time to start Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Eggplant, Leeks, Lettuce, Onions, Peas, Peppers, and Tomatoes. Follow the planting directions listed on the seed packet. Most seeds can be gently pressed into the mixture; using the eraser end of a pencil also works well. Carefully cover the seeds with a thin layer of potting mix, and don’t forget to label your pots! Gently water your pots and cover with ventilated plastic. Place pots in a warm place where they can be checked frequently, and keep the soil moist. When seedlings appear, remove the plastic and move containers into bright light.
It is best to disrupt the seedlings as little as possible during their beginning stages of growth. If it becomes necessary to transplant seedlings to larger containers before they can be brought outside, do so carefully. Seedlings must go through the process of “hardening off” before they can be transplanted into the garden. About a week before you plant them outside, set the seedlings outdoors in an area that is protected from the wind and gets light shade. Do this for a few hours each day, and gradually expose them to more sun and wind over the course of the week. This minimizes stress on the plant and ensures a smooth transition. Be sure to keep the soil moist at all times during the hardening off period. Only move seedling outside one the weather is cooperative – this is especially important for sensitive crops like Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Melons, Corn, and Summer Squash. Be sure your garden soil is loose and well-aerated. Give the seedlings a soaking as soon as they are transplanted out, and spread mulch to avoid moisture loss. Treat the new transplants with a phosphorous rich, organic fertilizer and they’ll produce strong and healthy roots!
We've got all you need to get your seeds started indoors - come by and visit the store for seeds, potting mixes, containers, labels, and advice from our knowledgeable staff! We're open Monday - Saturday from 8:00am - 5:00pm, and Sunday from 9:00am - 5:00pm.