Sow those seeds soon to get a jump on your garden and save some green
February 15, 2019
I’d like to take a quick poll among local gardeners.
Last year, after spending hundreds of dollars on bedding plants, how many of you swore to yourselves that next year, you would take some time in late winter to begin sowing your own seeds indoors, so that you could not only save those dollars, but also feel the deep satisfaction that only comes from putting a wee seed in the dirt that will eventually grow into something you can eat or admire?
Show of hands. Oh, that’s a lot. Hey, I’m not judging. I’m in the same boat. In fact, for the last seven years, I’ve promised myself that I would start my seedlings for my vegetable garden indoors, thereby saving a wheelbarrow full of money and feeling smugly self-sufficient.
Guess how many years I’ve kept that promise? Zero, zilch, none and nada. No self-started seedlings, no savings, no satisfaction. And here we are again. It’s “next year.”
But growing your own bedding plants from seeds is not difficult, and it’s not at all expensive. The real key is planning, and remembering to sow the seeds. I’m reminding you right now to begin the planning and planting of your garden, so that you can be prepared come mid-May--that’s when Colorado gardeners can feel safe that the last frost has passed here.
If you plant seedlings indoors over the next three months, you’ll have hearty little plants that will be ready to transplant, and you will have saved some bucks and maybe even be ahead of the pack, since you will have been planning your garden months ahead of any actual outdoor planting.
So what seeds do you sow indoors during which months? The first step is to take a sheet of paper and list the veggies and flowering plants you want to have in your gardens this year. Then head to the store, buy packets of those seeds, plus potting soil and whatever containers in which you’ll be tending your indoor seedlings.
The easiest way is to buy the mini-greenhouses--large trays of small containers that come with an easily removable plastic cover to keep heat and humidity in while the seeds germinate and eventually sprout. If you want to go old-school penny pincher, however, you can also just use egg cartons, newspapers, toilet paper rolls, eggshells...instead of going on, I’ll include the link at the end of the column.
Take out all those seed packets and look at the little chart on the back of each one. You’ll see that some plants will take less time to grow to a transplantable state than others. On that list you made earlier, note beside each plant how long it will take to get to transplantable maturity. For example, a cucumber plant sown indoors will take 3-4 weeks to be transplantable out in your garden, whereas an eggplant (who even grows those?) takes eight to ten weeks at your indoor nursery before its little purple body can even think about putting down roots in your backyard.
List those sowing times beside their respective plants. Print out a free calendar online, or use the one your insurance agent gave you, and flip to May 15, 2019. For your cucumbers, count back 4 weeks from May 15. That date would be...April 17. Then, mark that date on your little calendar and sow your cuke seeds indoors on April 17. It’s way more fun than filing taxes anyway, and you’ll get more back, besides.
Once you’ve gone through every plant on your list and figured out then written down the sow date, then you’ve got a sowing schedule. Since we’re in mid-February, and we know that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this year, we can feel pretty good about that May 15 last frost date.
You can always plant a little earlier if you’ve got cold frames, plenty of plastic covers and warm water jugs, or other methods to protect your seedlings from surprise frosts, but that can be a lot of work. Those plants that take longer to mature once transplanted, such as broccoli, celery, brussels sprouts, cabbage and onions will need to be sown earlier to be transplanted in early April, so start saving those cottage cheese containers and plastic tubs now.
Let’s make a deal: I’ll start my plants indoors this year, and you can, too. Come July, we can stand with self-sufficient pride in the middle of our gardens-from-scratch, secure in the knowledge that we hoed, we sowed, we growed.
I know, but I really wanted it to rhyme. Can you blame me, Fellow Newly Reformed Indoor Seed Sower? Let’s do this together. I’ll see you next month.
DIY seed-starting containers: