Now is the time to start seedlings for your summer garden!
Do you want to try out your green thumb and grow some vegetables this year? If so, the time is here to start seedlings for the garden. Some plants can be directly sown into the soil when the weather is warm enough. Other plants like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and herbs are all good candidates for starting indoors. You can always skip this step and purchase plants directly from a garden store or the farmer’s market. The benefit of starting your own plants, however, is that you get to choose which variety of plants to grow.
Here are some tips if you are planning on growing your garden from seeds:
1. Choose your seeds carefully.
Read the packets for information about how the plants grow and the time needed to start seeds indoors. For example, I am always drawn to seed packets that tout “disease-resistance,” because in the past I have lost many tomatoes and peppers to various forms of rot or spotting. Also, if you are planning on growing your vegetables in outside containers rather than a garden bed, you will want to get plants that are designed to grow in pots. Try not to get too carried away with too many varieties of seeds. This can be easy to do when you see all the possible plants that you can grow. Remember, you do not want to have too many plants and overcrowd your garden. Overcrowding will be detrimental to your harvest and the health of your plants.
2. Start your seeds with a seed starting mix.
If you are feeling ambitious, you can always look up how to mix your own. I have had great luck with the indoor greenhouses that come with the little soil pellets that you have to hydrate in order to expand. You can also use egg cartons or little pots and buy bags of seed mix starter. Make sure your pots or containers have holes in the bottoms for drainage.
3. Plant several seeds in a container or pellet.
Read the instructions on the seed packet for the sowing depth. Make sure your containers are labeled so you can keep track of what type of seeds are sprouting. You will want to put more than one seed in each pot or pellet. If you only plant one seed, you may not see a sprout. If you plant several, one or many of them are more than likely to grow. Place your sown seeds in a sunny window and keep them hydrated while they grow. My kids usually spray them with a spray bottle every day to keep the soil evenly moist while not drowning the seeds. Once they are a few inches tall and have a couple of sets of leaves, you can thin them. You do this by gently pulling out the smallest plants, leaving the largest, strongest one to grow, so you are left with one strong plant per container or pellet. If you leave them all growing in one container, they will most likely become overcrowded and eventually die or break.
I do recommend starting an extra seedling for each variety that you are planning on growing. This provides some insurance in case you accidentally break a plant while growing or transplanting, or any other accident should befall a seedling.
4. Prepare your plants for planting by hardening them outside.
In Nebraska, many people will put summer plants in the ground around Mother’s Day, while others wait until Memorial Day. Regardless, it is best to wait until there hasn’t been a nightly frost for at least two weeks, and the soil temperature should be around 70 degrees. A couple of weeks before planting time, begin exposing your seedlings to the outside. On a warm afternoon, place them in the shade for a couple of hours. Do this for a few days, and then gradually start exposing them to sunlight and longer periods of time outside. This will ensure that your plants will acclimate to their new home in the ground well and will not suffer from shock.
Planting a garden is one of the most rewarding parts of summer in my family.
My kids love to help with every step of the preparation and planting of the garden. They get excited to try the food we grow. If you are new to gardening, start simple, and give it a try. Even if it doesn’t turn into perfection, it is a fun and rewarding process that can always be improved the next year.