Year-round gardening: Start your vegetable gardening indoors – Colorado Springs Gazette
Starting seeds indoors is a simple and inexpensive way to enjoy many vegetable varieties not commonly found in garden centers. Starting seeds indoors allows gardeners to “jump-start” long-season crops.
Here are 10 steps to starting seeds indoors:
1. Select your containers. Use small, individual, containers to reduce root damage during transplant. Plant two to three seeds per cell; when seedlings emerge, thin to one per cell. Avoid disturbing roots. Thin unwanted plants with tweezers once true leaves have formed.
2. Using warm water, moisten a large bucketful of a soil-less seed starter mixture (germination mix) or use equal parts peat moss, vermiculite and perlite. Do not use potting soil or compost. Fill your clean containers with the mixture to just below the rim. Use only sterile mixes to avoid damping off, a common, soil-born fungal infection .
3. Plant your selected seeds according to the seed packet instructions. Use May 18 as a probable last freeze date for Colorado Springs to calculate when the seeds should be started indoors.
4. Cover containers with plastic, and prick holes with a toothpick for ventilation.
5. Water newly started seeds carefully with a mist sprayer with cool to lukewarm water (68–77 degrees F.). A mist sprayer will dispense the water effectively without causing too much soil disruption. Do not allow seeds to dry out. Keep them moist, not soggy.
6. Seeds sprout best at temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees. Use plant heating mats available at your garden center or online to maintain the temperature.
7. When seedlings emerge, remove the plastic and heat mat and move the containers into bright light. A windowsill is often not a good location for starting seeds due to temperature and light fluctuations. Inadequate light is the major cause of elongated, skinny stems. It’s much better to grow seedlings under full-spectrum fluorescent or LED lights on a timer to ensure 12 to 16 hours of light daily. Keep lights no more than 4 inches above the tops of your seedlings: 2 inches is ideal. Continue to make sure the plants are kept moist.
8. Once seedlings develop true leaves, fertilize with a quarteristrength water-soluble fertilizer to stimulate healthy, even growth.
9. As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, carefully transplant seedlings into a sterile soil-less mixture in their own small pots. As they grow, you might have to repot two to three times.
10. Approximately two weeks before planting outdoors, begin hardening off seedlings by placing them outdoors, gradually moving them from shade to full sun. Start with less than an hour per day in shade; increase the time in direct sun each day until the plants tolerate several hours of direct sun and spring breezes. That should take about two weeks; then plant them in your garden.
Certain vegetables do better when direct seeded into the garden soil. Plant beets, carrots, corn, parsnips, peas, radishes, Swiss chard and turnips directly in the garden.