Now that you’ve had time to peruse the internet and seed catalogs, learn new things and see that you have sooo many choices, you must be dying to try some new plants.  Here are some guidelines for starting seeds indoors:

Mid-February will give you approximately 10 weeks before the last spring freeze to start your plants.  The end of February will give you approximately 8 weeks, so I hope you have made decisions so you can get started.  I prefer 10 weeks since I like taller and leggier plants.

Get your seeds started early

Germination of seeds takes 7-14 days, meaning you will have to wait one to two weeks before you will see tiny plants popping up through the dirt of those tiny seeds you carefully planted.  The best temperature for germination is 60-85 degrees with 14-16 hours of light.  Below 50 degrees or above 85 degrees are poor temperatures for germination. 

After the first leaves develop, transplant into plug trays or 3 – 4 inch pots. Sow in flats or pots using a soilless peat-based mix (not potting soil) or use one of the special starting mixes.  

Fertilize with fish emulsion, but keep wet only enough to keep the mix from drying out.  You may choose to mix fish emulsion with water and spray directly onto seedlings.

Fish emulsion is an organic garden fertilizer that is made from whole fish or parts of fish. It provides an NPK ratio  of 4-1-1 and is most often used as foliar feed to provide a quick nitrogen boost. These macro-nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) or NPK for short.  You may remember that the settlers of Jamestown caught and buried fish to use as fertilizer.

You can plant outdoors once the temperature reaches over 45 degrees at night.  This is usually right around Mother’s Day.  Place your new plants outdoors during the day to “harden” or get them used to outdoor temperatures.  Once the desirable temperature is reached, leave them out overnight for a few nights before transplanting. 

Plant outdoors as soon as the weather is right

Once you are ready to plant outdoors, and you have properly prepared your soil, plant leggy seedlings in trenches and lay the root ball on its side horizontally.  Dig to at least 6 inches deep, leaving the top 4 branches of top leaves.  A fun thing to do would be to bury a piece of banana peel in the bottom of the tomato hole.  The peel will act as slow-release fertilizer providing potassium and trace elements.  Small varieties should be placed about 12 inches apart in a row.  The larger sprawling or indeterminate varieties should be spaced 36-48 inches apart to give adequate area for staking your plants.

DO NOT overwater.

DO NOT over-feed.

More on this later.