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I have several steps I take when getting ready for the garden season, one of my favorites is seed sorting.
One of the first things I do is figure out what and how many of each variety I want to plant. I go though my notes from last year and start getting my lists together in late December or early January so I can order my seeds. Then I go through and order what I need and usually more than I need because I always find something else that looks fun.
Once my seeds come in, they need to get sorted so I don’t miss starting anything. I have a relatively short growing season. This means that prior to choosing a variety of pepper or tomato to grow I need to read the information to make sure it will mature in the growing window I have. It also means that there are several things I will want to start indoors to give them a good head start.
Going through all my seeds
I go through all my seeds and sort them by how many weeks before the last frost they should be started. I have quite a few things this year that will get started directly in the garden, which is nice. There are other things that will need a head start before they can get planted if I want a harvest, which of course I do!
What will you start indoors?
Peppers and tomatoes will be started inside, but I am also going to try artichokes again this year. Other things like cabbage and melons need more time than I have for a growing season so they will be started indoors as well. I have a great location to start my seeds with plenty of light because if they do not start with enough light, they get leggy and aren’t as strong to transplant.
Reading your seed packets
All seeds have information about how many weeks before the last frost they should be started indoors. Last year, I really stuck strictly to the guidelines and I felt like some of my seedlings weren’t quite big enough when I wanted to transplant them. This year I am going to bump up the artichokes, peppers and tomatoes by a couple weeks and hopefully have better success. I will also be starting some perennial herbs for my herb garden addition.
While I want to have good strong seedlings, I don’t want to start my tomatoes and peppers too early as I don’t want them to be flowering when I go to transplant them in the garden. Every time you transplant a plant it can slow its growth a bit and can cause transplant shock, particularly if it becomes root bound in the original container. It is best to get your plants in the ground before they start to flower. So, this is kind of a balancing act getting the bigger seedlings that will not yet be flowering.
Over the next few weeks, I will let you know how it is going and talk about the process of hardening off the seedlings before they go in the garden. Hardening off is HUGE! Last year I got impatient and lost a bunch of tomatoes as a result.
Find your last frost date
To sort my seeds, I make different piles for each start date. I will usually have a pile for 12 weeks, 8 weeks, 6 weeks, 4 weeks, 2 weeks and then two for direct sow. There are several things that are cool weather crops that can handle a light frost, and these will go in as soon as the soil is workable. Then there are other crops that will not tolerate a frost and may even require that the soil is a certain temperature. Those will not get planted until after my last average frost date. You can find your average frost date and length of your growing season by plugging in your zip code to on the tool at the Farmers Almanac page https://www.almanac.com/gardening/frostdates
Storing your sorted seeds
I have an accordion file that I use to sort each of my stacks of seeds. Then each week I just check the file box to see what I am planting. Once all my seeds are sorted and tucked away, I just need to keep track of the date of the first week I will plant. This year, I grabbed an online week of the year calendar, copied it into an excel file and added a column for the weeks before last frost. Then I could just look at the list to easily find the start dates for my plants.
I love this time of year. I will be starting more seeds about every two weeks once I get started. Pretty soon the house starts filling up with plants in various stages and I have to keep up with repotting things as well. Managing seeds and all the little plants saves me a ton of money over buying seedlings and ensures that I get to plant the varieties I want. I also grow heirloom seeds, so I can save seeds from my favorite plants. I will have more on that later in the season.
How do you get ready for planting season? Are you starting seed indoors this year?