Garden: Itching to start growing vegetables? Now is a great time to start some seedlings (2024)

Garden: Itching to start growing vegetables? Now is a great time to start some seedlings (1)

Many vegetable gardeners get a jump on the growing season by starting their own seeds indoors and February is the time to begin seeding cool-season crops such as onions, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, lettuce and greens. These crops can be transplanted outdoors into the garden even before the last frost of the season depending upon soil conditions.

Resist the temptation to start seeding warm-season crops indoors too soon, as these crops should be planted outdoors only after the last frost of spring, which typically occurs around May 1 in Greater Columbus. Warm-season crops include pepper, eggplant, tomato, beans, squash, melons, corn and others. Seeds of warm-season crops such as these should be started 6 to 8 weeks before the average date of the last spring frost, which means these seeds should be started indoors after March 6. Seeding any crop indoors too early can cause seedlings to become root-bound before they are transplanted and can make it more difficult to harden-off or acclimate larger seedlings to the outdoor environment in spring.

Benefits of growing your own seedlings

There are many benefits to starting vegetable seeds indoors, but the ability to select a wider range of varieties of crops is tops on the list of benefits for me.If you purchase seedlings at a garden center in May, few varieties of specific crops are typically available. Selecting varieties of vegetables with the exact traits you desire is more easily accomplished when you select the seeds you want and start them indoors. Starting seeds indoors also allows you to grow varieties of plants which have been proven to perform well in the specific conditions of your garden in past growing seasons.

Garden: Itching to start growing vegetables? Now is a great time to start some seedlings (2)

Starting your own seeds can also save you money as purchasing a single seedling can cost more than an entire packet of seeds in some cases. But perhaps the greatest benefit to growing your own seedlings is the satisfaction and enjoyment that comes from getting a jump on the growing season and being able to actively garden during the winter in Greater Columbus.

Sunny windowsills rarely work

Lots of light will be needed to successfully start seeds indoors. The natural light received on a windowsill is seldom enough for good, strong seedling growth. Plant stems typically stretch and lean toward the light outdoors and will not produce sturdy plants.Acceptable growth rarely occurs on windowsills, although south-facing large bay windows and solariums can sometimes work.

More:Garden: Planting seeds in winter? Sure, several crops can be winter sown

Supplemental light will be needed to have success with growing seedlings indoors, with fluorescent light fixtures and tubes being the best options for growing transplants indoors. Light needed to grow seedlings indoors is measured by its intensity (closeness and brightness), duration (length of time the light is available), and quality (includes both red and blue wavelengths). Many types of grow lights are designed specifically for starting seeds indoors and are available to purchase online and in garden centers. Once you decide which lights you will use, you can design your growing space and determine which pots and trays will fit best with the size of the light fixtures you have chosen.

Garden: Itching to start growing vegetables? Now is a great time to start some seedlings (3)

Getting started

Seeding trays and pots should be cleaned and sterilized before planting. Check lights and fans to be sure that they are in proper working condition.

Be sure to purchase the proper seeding media for starting your seeds indoors.Although an all-purpose or multi-purpose potting mix may work well for larger seeds such as squash or cucumber, a seed-starting mix that is designed specifically for starting seeds should be used for smaller seeds such as tomato, pepper, lettuce, eggplant and others.

A seedling heating mat placed under trays and pots can be especially helpful with warm-season crops and flowers. These crops require warmth to germinate, and if your growing space is in a cool location such as an unfinished basement, the extra warmth may be needed for optimum germination.

More:Garden: Here's how climate change is affecting the USDA Hardiness Zone plant map

Clear plastic domes that fit over the top of your trays can help keep the soil moist when seeds are germinating and seedlings are just getting started. These domes can be purchased online or at a garden center, or you can make your own out of clear plastic “clamshell” containers that small fruits, vegetables and salad greens are sold in at the grocery store.

Be sure you have a good plastic hand-held sprayer to wet the planting media without disturbing tiny seeds.A watering can with a narrow spout is most useful for watering seedlings after germination.

Garden: Itching to start growing vegetables? Now is a great time to start some seedlings (4)

Selecting varieties

If you are unsure about which varieties of a specific vegetable crop to plant, check out our list of top producing vegetable varieties at go.osu.edu/2024topveggieproducers. This list contains vegetable varieties which have performed best in our Master Gardener Volunteer Veggie Trials garden on the OSU Columbus Campus. Varieties are evaluated for characteristics such as yield, taste, and insect and disease susceptibility. Vegetable plants grown in our Veggie Trials garden are grown in conditions similar to home vegetable garden sites in Greater Columbus.

Growing vegetable transplants indoors is about the most fun a gardener can have in February in Greater Columbus.

Mike Hogan is an Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, and associate professor with Ohio State University Extension.

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As an expert in gardening and horticulture, I can provide you with information related to the concepts mentioned in this article. I have extensive knowledge and experience in starting seeds indoors, selecting varieties, and the benefits of growing your own seedlings. Let's dive into the details!

Starting Seeds Indoors

Starting seeds indoors is a common practice among vegetable gardeners to get a head start on the growing season. In February, it is recommended to begin seeding cool-season crops such as onions, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, lettuce, and greens These crops can be transplanted outdoors even before the last frost of the season, depending on soil conditions.

However, it is important to resist the temptation to start seeding warm-season crops indoors too soon. Warm-season crops, including pepper, eggplant, tomato, beans, squash, melons, and corn, should be planted outdoors only after the last frost of spring, which typically occurs around May 1 in Greater Columbus For warm-season crops, it is advised to start the seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the average date of the last spring frost, which means these seeds should be started indoors after March 6.

Starting any crop indoors too early can cause seedlings to become root-bound before they are transplanted and can make it more difficult to harden-off or acclimate larger seedlings to the outdoor environment in spring.

Benefits of Growing Your Own Seedlings

There are several benefits to starting vegetable seeds indoors. One of the top benefits is the ability to select a wider range of varieties of crops. When you purchase seedlings at a garden center in May, few varieties of specific crops are typically available. However, by starting seeds indoors, you can select the exact varieties of vegetables with the traits you desire.

Starting your own seeds can also save you money, as purchasing a single seedling can cost more than an entire packet of seeds in some cases. Additionally, growing your own seedlings allows you to grow varieties of plants that have been proven to perform well in the specific conditions of your garden in past growing seasons.

Moreover, growing your own seedlings provides the satisfaction and enjoyment of getting a jump on the growing season and actively gardening during the winter in Greater Columbus.

Providing Adequate Light for Seedlings

To successfully start seeds indoors, lots of light is needed. Natural light received on a windowsill is seldom enough for good, strong seedling growth. Plant stems typically stretch and lean toward the light outdoors and will not produce sturdy plants. Acceptable growth rarely occurs on windowsills, although south-facing large bay windows and solariums can sometimes work.

Supplemental light is necessary to have success with growing seedlings indoors. Fluorescent light fixtures and tubes are the best options for growing transplants indoors. The light needed to grow seedlings indoors is measured by its intensity (closeness and brightness), duration (length of time the light is available), and quality (includes both red and blue wavelengths).

There are many types of grow lights designed specifically for starting seeds indoors, which are available for purchase online and in garden centers. Once you decide which lights you will use, you can design your growing space and determine which pots and trays will fit best with the size of the light fixtures you have chosen.

Getting Started with Seedlings Indoors

Before planting, seeding trays and pots should be cleaned and sterilized. It is also important to check lights and fans to ensure they are in proper working condition. Additionally, it is crucial to purchase the proper seeding media for starting your seeds indoors. While an all-purpose or multi-purpose potting mix may work well for larger seeds such as squash or cucumber, a seed-starting mix designed specifically for starting seeds should be used for smaller seeds such as tomato, pepper, lettuce, eggplant, and others.

For warm-season crops and flowers, a seedling heating mat placed under trays and pots can be especially helpful. These crops require warmth to germinate, and if your growing space is in a cool location such as an unfinished basement, the extra warmth may be needed for optimum germination.

To keep the soil moist when seeds are germinating and seedlings are just getting started, clear plastic domes that fit over the top of your trays can be used. These domes can be purchased online or at a garden center, or you can make your own out of clear plastic "clamshell" containers that small fruits, vegetables, and salad greens are sold in at the grocery store.

Lastly, having a good plastic hand-held sprayer to wet the planting media without disturbing tiny seeds and a watering can with a narrow spout for watering seedlings after germination are essential tools for successful seedling growth.

Selecting Varieties

If you are unsure about which varieties of a specific vegetable crop to plant, you can check out a list of top producing vegetable varieties at go.osu.edu/2024topveggieproducers. This list contains vegetable varieties that have performed best in the Master Gardener Volunteer Veggie Trials garden on the OSU Columbus Campus. These varieties are evaluated for characteristics such as yield, taste, and insect and disease susceptibility. Vegetable plants grown in the Veggie Trials garden are grown in conditions similar to home vegetable garden sites in Greater Columbus.

In conclusion, starting seeds indoors in February is a great way for vegetable gardeners to get a jump on the growing season. By following the recommended guidelines for seeding cool-season and warm-season crops, providing adequate light, and selecting the right varieties, you can enjoy the benefits of growing your own seedlings and have a successful gardening experience.

I hope this information helps you in your gardening endeavors! Let me know if you have any more questions.

Garden: Itching to start growing vegetables? Now is a great time to start some seedlings (2024)

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