Get a head start on your veggie garden
If there is one thing we know for sure, it’s that Colorado is a place with extreme weather fluctuations. With its sometimes unpredictable weather patterns, the decision of when to plant your gardens outside can add a lot of distress to even the most skilled gardeners. That’s why starting your seedlings indoors can be a great way to get a jump on your garden while you try to wait out Mother Nature and her finicky weather!
Generally, March is an ideal time to start planning and sowing your seeds for your summer garden indoors. Think of it this way: the goal is to start your seeds in March, so that your plants are full and thriving by the first of June! With a shorter growing season here in Colorado Springs, giving your veggies a 4-6 week head start will help ensure you have a plentiful harvest and a thriving garden during the summer months!
- Potting Soil
- For the best results when starting seeds, it’s important to choose a starter potting soil made specifically for starting seeds. This will help ensure germination and provide a strong foundation for your seedlings! Check with your local garden center to help you choose the correct one.
- It’s important to remember that seedlings don’t need a lot of space to grow. Ideally, seed trays that have cells that are 2-3 inches wide and deep are best for starting seeds.
- The most common containers are trays of cells that have anywhere from 4 to 12 cells per tray. You can also use biodegradable seed cups that can be directly planted into the ground or items you may have lying around your home (like Dixie cups or egg cartons). Just make sure that whatever you use has holes to allow for drainage and aren’t wax coated. No drainage holes? No problem, simply poke some holes in the bottom!
- Variety of Seeds
- You are the captain of your own ship! Choose veggies and flowers for your garden that you and/or your family will enjoy eating the most! Just be mindful of their sun and water needs.
- See our guide below on which veggies transplant best.
- Seed Covers
- Having something to cover your seedlings when you first start them can be extremely helpful in terms of holding moisture and heat in which helps facilitate germination (seed sprouting).
- You can often find seed starting tray kits that include plastic domes/lids that can be put on top of trays. If you don’t have access to a kit, try using plastic wrap!
- Water! Water! Water!
- Seedlings are sensitive and needy little plants! Make sure you are checking soil moisture daily and watering as needed. Make sure to not flood your seed cells, as you will risk having the seeds rot before they have time to germinate.
How to Start & care for Seedlings
1. Plant your seeds!
Before you do anything, make sure to consult the back of your seed packets, the are the best cheat sheets for starting seeds! This will tell you right depth to plant your seeds and takes all the guesswork out of it. Always make sure you moisten the soil before seeding as this will help with germination.
Place at least 2 seeds in each cell. This will help increase the probability of germination, and you can always thin them out to one plant per cell once they are larger. Once planted, make sure to water in your seeds! Keep track of what you are planting by labeling your cells and containers.
2. Position your seed trays in a warm, sunny spot, or under a grow light!
Sunlight is one of the most important factors, next to water, for starting your seeds successfully. If you can get your hands on some grow lights, set them on a 12 hour cycle so that your plants can get strong, consistent light. If not, place your seed trays/containers in a spot that gets consistent/semi-consistent sun throughout the day.
Window sills are best, just make sure there are no chilly drafts, as maintaining warm temperatures for your seed babies is very important! If you need additional soil heat, grab a warming mat form your local garden center to warm the potting soil to the ideal range for starting seeds.
3. Provide consistent moisture!
As previously stated, make sure you are checking your soil moisture daily. No need for a fancy moisture meter, just use your finger! Germination is dependent on moisture. You will most likely be watering your seedlings daily if you don’t have a cover. There are a variety of methods you can use, just be sure that the force of water on your seedlings isn’t too strong, especially in the beginning. We don’t want you washing those seeds out to sea!
4. Thin out your seedlings as needed.
Once your seedlings begin to germinate, (start to sprout), you will want to thin them out if you originally put more than one seed in each cell. Having more than one plant in each cell will become too crowded, the plants will start to compete and overall growth will be stunted. To do this, carefully pull out one (most commonly the smaller) of the plants, being careful not to disrupt the root system of the other seedling.
Moving your seedlings Outdoors:
It’s important to allow your new seedlings time to “harden off” before planting them outdoors. You can do this by leaving them outdoors for a few hours a day to become accustomed to the elements. Expose the plants to more direct sunlight and wind each day for about two weeks.
Once your plants are big and hardened off enough, and once temperatures outside have risen and remain consistent, it is time to transport your seedlings to their final destination, THE GREAT OUTDOORS! Some plants take longer to mature before they are ready to move outdoors, ranging anywhere from 3-10 weeks. Our infographic below provides some good ranges using our average last frost date in Colorado Springs of May 16th.
vegetables that are favorable to start inside
When to Start
Weeks before the average last frost