Vegetables to Start Indoors for a Spring Garden
With the soil and the air finally starting to warm up, it’s time to start thinking about planting a garden. There’s more that goes into planting beside digging shallow holes, putting seeds in, and watering the little guys frequently. Ideally, summer vegetables need to be planted in the ground when the night air can stay around or above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In the southern parts of the US, that can be around mid to late April, but depending on a bunch of factors, it can take a lot longer to feel those summer temperatures.
Because of this, some vegetables are better off started indoors and moved to an outside garden space later. If you’re renting or short on outdoor space, you can even start some vegetables inside and then move them to a terrace, balcony, or yard in larger containers. If you’re confused about what “starting vegetables indoors” means, let’s briefly explain how to get that seed to become a seedling you can plant in soil.
How to Start Seeds Indoors
There’s no reason to be intimidated by growing your own seedlings inside. You can buy DIY seedling starters with little expense by using old (but clean) plastic containers or even egg cartons. As long as you poke holes in the bottom of the cups to allow drainage, you’re fine. First off, read the labels of your seed packets! Some seeds need to be scratched or soaked before planting. Then, make sure to start with potting soil that is made specifically for seedlings, as they have different nutritional needs than mature plants. Label your seedling containers BEFORE you start, so you don’t forget what they are later! Then moisten your soil in your containers; push seeds into the mix according to directions. The last step is to cover your containers with plastic wrap to keep in moisture and heat, which seeds need to grow. Just don’t forget to poke holes in the covering so the little guys can breathe.
Vegetables You Can Start Indoors in Spring
To get you started on your indoor to outdoor gardening adventure, let’s look at some vegetables that you can start indoors in the springtime to be able to plant when it’s warm enough.
Broccoli needs to be harvested while the days are still rather cool, so starting broccoli indoors is a requirement in places where the last expected frost comes early. In places that have a later last expected frost, broccoli can be started outdoors. Ideally, broccoli seeds should be planted four to six weeks before time to set out the seedlings. Seedlings should be placed outside two weeks before the date of the last expected frost.
Cabbage is a frost-resistant plant and can be started around a month before the last frost or at the same time as broccoli. They can be put out after the last severe freeze and when the weather is still cool. Cabbage reaches maturity between 70 to 120 days, so plan ahead.
Onions and leeks have a long growing season to reach maturity so starting them indoors can be beneficial to make sure they reach maturity. Dry onions aren’t ready to pick until around 100 days and leeks aren’t ready for 130 days. It’s best to start them 10-12 weeks before the last expected frost in your area.
For a spring crop, Celery should be started indoors. For a fall or winter harvest, they can be started outside in the spring. Celery needs five to six months to grow from a seed. You can start celery at the same time as your onions and leeks, but they can be sat out earlier as they are frost resistant.
With tomatoes, it’s best to plant several different varieties that have different maturity rates to ensure a long season. Along with tomatoes, you can start peppers around two months before the last expected frost. Peppers can be moved outside two weeks after the last frost once the soil is warmer. They reach maturity around 80 days after they’re moved outside.
Watermelons, cantaloupe, and honeydew should be started indoors because of their long growing season and because of their sensitive roots. Ideally, melons and cucumbers should be started indoors a month before the last scheduled frost and moved outside before the plant has four leaves. This is to avoid disturbing the roots.
These guys take a long time to reach maturity as well, needing between 70 to 110 days. Tomatoes germinate best around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so starting them indoors at least two months before the last expected frost is ideal.
Head lettuce actually needs the cool weather to form a firm head and 80 to 90 days to do it. You can start head lettuce a month before the last frost but be careful, if it gets too hot then the heads will not form. If you’re in the southern part of the United States, head lettuce is a winter crop and should be started in the fall.