Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Starting Veggie & Perennial Seeds Indoors

Starting Seeds Indoors

Hello Fellow Readers,

Ready to dig in? A rule of thumb is eight weeks before the last frost date (typically May 19th here in Northern New Jersey) is the time to start seeds indoors. I don’t know about you, but I am counting on normal despite our crazy winter! Hence I plan to start seeds the last week of March.

Mike from Washington is a first-timer and asked for tips of how-to and what vegetables he should start with. Favorites like peppers, tomatoes, celery, and less loved Brussels sprouts need a long growing season for an abundant harvest, and ours is not long enough to start seeds directly in the ground.

Planting containers should be at least three inches deep. Use a good quality starting mix rather than garden soil, which can compact easily. Moisten but don’t saturate the mixture and fill each container to a half-inch below the top. Sow individual seeds into each container according to seed pack directions, typically four times as deep as the seed’s width. Cover with plastic and prick holes for ventilation, all the while keeping the mix moist.

Seeds germinate sooner and produce healthier roots if kept warm, making the top of your refrigerator a great spot.  Or there are electric heating mats specifically for that purpose. Once the seeds sprout, remove the plastic and move them into bright light, preferably under grow lights or a fluorescent shop light suspended a few inches from the plants for 12 to 16 hours a day. Move the lights up as the plants grow. If using a sunny window, rotate the plants, so they are not reaching for the sun.

“How about starting perennial seeds indoors?” Asked Dorothy of Stroudsburg? Many of the seed catalogs lure us with plants that are tough to start.  But there are easy-to-grow perennials that usually bloom in their first growing season if you provide a head start. A few I tout are: Tickseed (Coreopsis), Maiden Pinks (Dianthus), Catmint (Nepeta), Blanket flower (Gaillardia), Anise Hyssop (Agastache), Yarrow (Achillea), and Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum); all are medium to high in deer resistance.

Perennials seeds are slower to germinate than annual or vegetable seeds taking up to a month to sprout, which justifies starting two weeks earlier.  Yippee! So dig in, think spring, and save lots of dough!

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Click through to a related column Green with Envy Seed Starting Tips

updated 1/12/21

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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