It’s cold, snowy, and definitely winter. So naturally, I’m thinking about my summer garden! Since I live in a 6A USDA Hardiness Zone for gardening, our actual gardening season is fairly short. With a few simple supplies you can try early seed starting and have greenhouse beautiful plants for only pennies!
If you are anything like me, you push a seed in the dirt and wait. And wait and wait. After awhile you get tired of waiting, so you dig it up. This either proves that it wasn’t growing, or ensures that it won’t since you just killed the seedling. With this method of starting seeds, you quickly see which seeds were duds without digging them up!
- Styrofoam plate
- Gallon Ziploc bag
- Paper towel
Most of these items you probably already have around your house. I just keep the styrofoam plates and bags to use year after year. The seeds might be a little hard to order this early in the year. I buy seeds when they go on sale 50% off at the end of the season. If you haven’t done that, Burpee.com is a great place to buy your seeds (or a local seed store or seed exchange).
- Plan out what you will plant. I usually start more seeds than I want or need. That way if one dies or never sprouts, I have plenty to work with and haven’t lost any time. Then I have plenty extra to give to neighbors and friends too!
- Label your styrofoam plate with the name of the seed and the date.
- Fold a paper towel in half and lay half of it on a styrofoam plate. Wet the paper towel with water.
- Spread the seeds out on the wet paper towel and fold the top half over so the seeds are covered.
- Slip inside the Ziploc bag and seal.
- Place in a warm spot and wait.
Pretty simple, huh?
What I love about this method:
- The seeds don’t dry out.
- If you don’t have time to plant the seedlings right away, just move them to a sunny spot. As long as the paper towel stays moist, you can keep the sprouted seedlings in there for about a week or so.
- You can easily see what seedlings you have to work with.
- It is SO much cheaper than buying plants from the greenhouse. I have even had my plants end up bigger and healthier than the ones at the store!
- You know exactly what conditions your plants have been raised in. There’s nothing more sad than spending $15 on a prized tomato plant only to have it die once it gets in the ground. My theory is, if a plant dies this way, bummer. I’m out a few pennies!
What seeds are best to start so early?
- You can start many of your small seeds. By that I literally mean things that have a small seed. (broccoli, any lettuces, herbs, tomatoes, eggplant, etc.) You don’t want to start your root veggies indoors (like carrots, parsnips, etc.) They won’t transplant because their root needs to be in the ground.
- Anything that takes awhile to get started, but can go out early. Lettuces and broccoli are good cool weather plants, so they can go out early. Peas are too, but since they are a bigger seed, I wait until about a week before I can put them outside. Then, I sprout those and put them right outside.
- Tomatoes and eggplant seem to take forever to grow. I like to plant mine right at the beginning of the season with flowers already on them to maximize the fruit I will get off the vines.
- The herbs I am going to try to have a small little herb garden that I keep in my kitchen to use more fresh herbs. Might as well start those seeds with everything else!
Stay tuned and I will show you how to transplant them once they sprout!
When do you start your garden?