Starting seeds indoors is a great way to lengthen your growing season and beat the winter blues while you wait for spring! Here are the best 5 vegetables that you can start indoors today!
We’ve overcome so many hurdles this winter, but with Daylight Savings in the rear view mirror, spring is in sight. Warm days are on the horizon throughout much of the country, and even though some places are seeing a fresh blanket of snow, the calendar promises that warmer weather is a nearby possibility. I’ve been turning and working that winter compost pile all throughout the cold, icy months, just waiting in anticipation for the snow to melt.
As a gardener, there’s no better news, but if you haven’t started your seeds inside yet to prepare for spring transplanting, the time is now. After years of experimenting with starting seeds indoors, I’ve learned that there are some that simply transplant much better than others.
In addition, some vegetables are simply better suited to being started indoors, whether that’s because they need a longer growing season (which we just don’t have in Zone 4) or are finicky when they are sowed directly into the ground.
NOTE FROM VICTORIA: This is where we have bought our seeds for the last 4 years and we LOVE them!
5 Best Vegetables for Starting Seeds Indoors
Here are the top five vegetables you can start from seed indoors, and remember – starting seeds is a great way to get your hands in the dirt long before the snow has melted and the ground has thawed outside.
We’ll lump broccoli and cauliflower together here, but for all intents and purposes, this is a vegetable that definitely needs to be started indoors – honestly, no matter where you live.
Broccoli takes a long time to get going, and if you wait until after the last frost to seed it, you won’t have much time before it gets hot and your heads start to bolt. Broccoli needs to be started when it’s still cold outside to see good results, but start it too soon, and it can be snow-killed.
Therefore, windowsill planting is a good idea. Start it inside about eight weeks before your last anticipated date of frost. It likes to be kept cool, so keep the sown seeds in an area where temperatures rise no higher than about seventy degrees. Leave the seeds covered with plastic until they germinate, and then thin your seedlings for maximum growth.
Once your broccoli is ready to go outside, I recommend planting it in a raised bed. This will allow you to have better control over weeds (broccoli hates competition), drainage, and soil composition – factors to which this plant is quite sensitive.
Tomatoes are another crop that seem to take years to grow to maturity. Your seed packet might say your tomatoes will be mature in sixty or seventy days – but that’s not counting the time to fruit. Tomatoes usually take about sixty-five days….plus an additional six weeks. That’s a long time if you’re dying to get some juicy tomatoes in your hands!
Instead, start your seeds indoors about six weeks before the last predicted frost. Unlike broccoli, tomatoes don’t like to be cold, so you need to make sure your soil is toasty and that temperatures where you sow your seeds don’t drop below 50 degrees. This is why tomatoes are prime candidates for indoor seed starting!
Use large pots so that you don’t have to transplant from smaller cells later on. I recommend using a heat mat and covering the pots with plastic to ensure good germination rates. You can remove the plastic once the seedlings emerge and thin once the plants have leaves. And remember, always harden off your tomatoes before moving them outside.
I absolutely love eggplant, but up until a few years ago, I was terrified to make an attempt at growing it. Lucky for me, I’ve got a foolhardy sense of humor and finally gave it a go. I quickly learned that eggplant is much easier to start indoors than to direct sow outside.
You need to sow your seeds at least eight weeks before the plants themselves are ready to be planted – meaning eight to ten weeks before your last expected date of frost, as eggplant likes the heat. I should also note that eggplant seeds should be soaked in warm water for 24 hours before sowing – a task that you will likely have much more time for in February compared to May.
Peppers are a lot like tomatoes in that they absolutely LOVE the heat. I’ve had a lot of success transplanting pepper seedlings into soil that is warmed with a sheet of heavy black plastic – and that’s after waiting until June to sow!
Starting pepper seeds indoors is a great way to increase the likelihood that these cold-sensitive plants will be successful outdoors. You should start them in a location that is roughly 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and receives plenty of sun for best results.
Okay, so true story – most people recommend starting peas outdoors. Lucky for you (unlucky for you, probably!) I’m not most people! I’ve unfortunately had minimal success sowing peas outside. I think that’s because, where I live, our weather patterns look like this: frigid, frigid, frigid, brief winter thaw, frigid, scorching heat with suffocating humidity, frigid. That’s about it.
Plus, whenever I’ve sown peas outside, whether due to my own negligence or the startling tenacity of my flock, my chickens have always eaten any seedlings that emerge pretty much as soon as they emerge. So, starting peas indoors (about six weeks before the last frost) tends to be a smarter choice.
It lets them get a jump-start on the growing season, benefiting from cool (yet moderated) temperatures indoors, before they need to be planted outside. Once outside, they can get a couple of solid months of growth and production before the summer heat kills them off.
A word of caution, though – when transplanting peas outdoors, you need to be careful not to damage the fragile root ball. This isn’t one to let the kids help you on! Instead, disturb the ball as little as possible and place the seedlings about six inches apart in well-drained soil.
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This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are plenty of vegetables you can start from seed indoors to produce a more successful harvest later on. A good rule of thumb is that any vegetables that have a longer growing season or need certain conditions early on (such as tons of heat or perfectly draining soil) are good candidates for indoor sowing.
Are there any other plants that you prefer to start inside? Make sure you weigh in via the comments to tell us everything you do to have a successful growing season both now and down the road.
About the Author:
Rebekah Pierce is a writer and owner of J&R Pierce Family Farm. Her blog focuses on gardening and farming sustainably in an unconventional way.