When to Plant Seeds for the Garden
As winter begins to wind down, gardeners anxiously await the arrival of spring and the gardening season. Even though winter may still have a few tricks up its sleeve, vegetable gardeners can begin to prepare for the gardening season and get a head start on spring by starting some crops early indoors. Other seeds can be direct-planted right in the garden. If seeds are started indoors too soon, the little plants may outgrow their indoor growing space and become too leggy. If they're planted too late, the seedlings will not be large enough for transplanting in the garden when planting time comes round. If seeds are planted in the garden too soon, they may not germinate at all. For the best results and the least amount of frustration, it's important to know when to plant seeds indoors or in the garden.
Some crops are best started from seed indoors in cool northern climates, because the plants would not have enough time to grow and mature before the first fall frosts if they were to be direct seeded. Or perhaps a gardener simply wants to get an earlier start on the garden to extend their harvest season, so the seeds are given a few weeks head start indoors. But some plants don�t like to be transplanted, and others grow so quickly that they don't need an early start, so they should be direct seeded in the garden.
Knowing when to plant seeds indoors or directly in the garden comes with experience, and this information is often included on the back of seed packets also. But if you're planning your garden before the seeds have been purchased, this information will help you determine when to plant seeds for your garden.
Broccoli and cabbage can be started early indoors or direct seeded. The proper time when to plant seeds for broccoli or cabbage indoors would be four to six weeks before transplanting to the garden. The seedlings should be planted 12-18 inches apart in the garden. When planting these crops directly in the garden, plant three or four seeds together in one spot, and plant the next three or four seeds 12 inches down the row. Once the seeds sprout, they can be thinned to one seedling per spot.
Cucumbers can be started early indoors or direct seeded in the garden. For an earlier crop, sow cucumber seeds indoors 4-5 weeks before they can be planted outdoors. Cucumber seedlings can be planted two feet apart in the garden after the soil has warmed to at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant the seeds directly in the garden after the soil has warmed. Cucumber seeds will not germinate if the soil temperature is less than 50 degrees. Cucumbers can be spaced as closely as 8 inches apart if the plants will be given a trellis to climb on.
Okra seeds can be planted directly in the garden or given a head start indoors. The time to start okra early indoors is 4-5 weeks before all danger of frost has passed. Okra seedlings should be planted about a foot apart. As far as okra is concerned, you'll know when to plant seeds directly in the garden when the soil has warmed up to at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Plant okra seeds about two inches apart, thinning the seedlings later to 12 inches apart.
Pumpkins and winter squash are vigorous plants that grow well when the seeds are planted directly in the garden. Plant pumpkin or winter squash seeds in the garden after the threat of a spring frost has passed, planting seeds in groups of two or three, with each group planted at least 18 inches apart. Once the seeds have sprouted, they can be thinned to one robust seedling every 18 inches. If you have a short growing season, you may start pumpkin winter squash seeds indoors no more than 3-4 weeks before planting out the seedlings. These vining plants grow quickly and they are also sensitive to transplant shock, so take care when transplanting seedlings and do not allow them to become overgrown in their pots.
Tomatoes are most likely the Number One vegetable garden plant that is started early indoors. If you grow your own tomato seedlings you have a much wider choice of varieties than what you'll find for sale at garden centers. Tomato plants cannot handle cool temperatures or frost, so the seedlings must not be planted outdoors until all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to at least 70 degrees. Tomato plants that are planted while the soil is still cool will grow slowly and are also vulnerable to blossom end rot. For more information on blossom end rot, go to http://freeplants.com/tomato-promblems.htm
Sow tomato seeds indoors 5-6 weeks before the seedlings can be planted out. The timing for when to plant seeds for larger seedlings is a bit longer. To grow larger tomato seedlings, start the seeds 7-8 weeks early, and transplant the seedlings into larger pots after they have developed their first set of true leaves. Plants that will be staked and determinate varieties can be spaced 14-20 inches apart in the garden, while indeterminate varieties that will not be staked should be given more room to sprawl. Plant unstaked tomato seedlings one to three feet apart.
by Michael J. McGroarty