Can't wait to start those vegetables?

It's still a little early but you can get ready to plant now by starting seeds.

The easiest way to start your vegetable garden is by planting seeds directly in the garden. However, it isn't safe to plant many vegetables until after any chance of frost has passed and the soil has warmed – mid to late May in Michigan. We can get a jump start on enjoying those vegetables fresh from our garden by starting the plants indoors on a windowsill.

Don't start plants too early

Seed packages will tell you how many weeks ahead of the last frost date to start seeds indoors. Do you know the frost free date for your area? You can purchase the seeds you'd like to grow now.

You need good light

A south-facing windowsill is the best; next best are east or west facing windows. You may use fluorescent lights to ensure the plants get enough light. They will need to be placed no more than 4 to 6 inches above the plants and you will need to move them as the plants grow to maintain this distance.

A simple seed starting stand.
Photo 1. A simple seed starting stand.

Choose good potting soil

The most convenient type is a commercial seed starting soilless mix.  These often contain fertilizer. Using soil from the garden isn't recommended because it may contain insects, weed seeds or diseases that could damage or kill young plants.

Containers or pots are essential, and they must have drainage. Common choices include peat pots, peat pellets, and plastic pots and flats. If you are reusing plastic pots and flats, it is important that they be well-cleaned; scrub with a weak bleach solution (1:10), rinse and let dry.  This will remove any diseases that might have taken up residence and ensure a healthy start for your seedlings.

Your young plants will also appreciate heat from the bottom. Heating mats are available commercially. Heating pads with a very low setting will work, or I've even seen plastic containers filled with small Christmas lights.

So, go ahead and get ready now and watch this website to find out when you can start those seeds.

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