Nothing is more flavorful and delicious than home-grown food. Even though it’s still cold outside, if you’re thinking about planting a vegetable garden, you can start planning – and growing – your seeds now in the comfort of your home.
Want to Grow Your Own Seeds Indoors for a Vegetable Garden? Here’s How!
Why Grow Seeds Indoors?
There are several benefits to starting a vegetable garden with seeds rather than actual plants. The biggest perk is the cost savings. It’s much less expensive to buy seeds now than it is to purchase plants in the spring. This reduction in cost gives you the financial freedom to experiment with different varieties of vegetables without as much risk. So, if you like tomatoes you can plant cherry, beefsteak, and heirloom and see which type does best.
Two Phases of Seed Growth
When growing seeds inside there are two stages: germination and growth. During germination, the seeds are tucked away in their containers and need warmth and humidity. An easy way to keep them warm is to place them on top of your refrigerator. Make sure to check your seeds daily because once they sprout, they are in the second stage: growth. Now the plants need light, air circulation and a liquid fertilizer (more explanation in the steps below).
What Materials do I Need to Plant Vegetable Seeds in my House?
Seed starter kits are available, but you don’t need a kit to grow your own seeds at home. Here are the main items you need to get started:
Read the back of the seed packets to find out the number of days to maturity. This number will determine when you start the seeds. Choose the largest seeds and plant one per container. If your seeds are smaller, plant two. But don’t go crazy – more is not better, so no more than two.
- Seed-starting mix
Do not use soil! Your delicate little seedlings prefer a light and airy seed-starting mix, which is conveniently sold at your local gardening store. Put some of the mix in your containers, add water, pack it down a bit, add more mix and water again. Now you can sow your seeds.
- Small containers
Any small containers will do, such as yogurt cups or leftover plant flats from last spring. As long as the containers can hold up to ½ cup and you can poke holes in the bottom for drainage they’ll work fine. You may choose to buy pots made from material that decomposes, which you can later plant right in the ground to save a transplanting step.
- A shallow pan
The small containers need a waterproof pan or tray to sit in.
Growing seedlings like to remain moist – not wet or soggy – so water them from the bottom by adding water to the pan or tray and let the seeds soak up the water they need. You should also mist them with a water bottle so they get a little moisture from above as well.
In the first few weeks, before you see any sprouts forming, the seedlings need a humid environment. You can create this easily by covering them with a lid or plastic bag.
The germinating seeds also need warmth. You can place them on top of the fridge (as mentioned earlier) or on top of a heating pad.
- Air movement
Once the seeds have sprouted, you no longer need to keep them covered or heated. Now the growing plants require plenty of air flow and light in order to thrive.
If your house faces south and you get a lot of sun coming in through your windows, this may be all the light your seeds need. Cloudy days, however, are not acceptable as these little guys need an average of 14-15 hours of light a day – every day. To play it safe, artificial light is the answer. You can purchase a grow light or make your own from a shop light equipped with fluorescent bulbs. Setting your light on a timer ensures that your plants get the right amount of light each day.
- Liquid fertilizer
While your plants are enjoying their light, also feed them some liquid fertilizer for extra nutrition. Simply read the label on the back for directions.
When is the Last Frost Date in my Area?
Plant your seedlings six weeks before the last frost. You can look online to find the date for your area of the country. According to Urban Farmer, the last frost date for Columbus, Ohio, is April 28th.
Harden Your Vegetable Sprouts Before Planting Outside
Before you move your plants outside, you first need to slowly and gently acclimate them to the new environment. After all, they’ve been living in your cozy, temperature-and-wind-controlled home for all this time. Start hardening off two weeks prior to planting. Each day, take your plants outside for longer periods of time. Start with a few hours in the afternoon shade and expose them to more and more sunlight as time progresses.
What Vegetables Grow Best in Ohio
Many veggies originate from areas that get more hours of sunlight on a regular basis and have higher temperatures than Ohio, and seeds from these vegetables will not grow well in Midwest soil. Here is a list of popular vegetables that can do well in relatively cooler weather:
- Onions and Beets
- Broccoli, Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts
- Lettuce, Cabbage, Spinach and Kale
- Peas and Carrots
- Tomatoes, Cucumber and Peppers
If you plant a vegetable garden this year and grow seeds in your home, you’ll enjoy delicious food that you cultivate all on your own. It can’t get any healthier than that! Have questions? The plant pros at Five Seasons Landscape Management can help with your garden and landscape needs. Contact us today!