I decided to get a head start on the growing season this year and started a bunch of my vegetables indoors by seed. It’s really exciting to see all the little vegetables poking their way up out of the soil. But there definitely are best vegetables to start indoors, and some vegetables that just don’t like to be transplanted.
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Best Seeds to Start Indoors
The best vegetables to start indoors are brussel sprouts, cabbage, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, and peas. In general, root vegetables like beets and carrots are the most difficult to transplant because they don’t like their roots disturbed when you move them. You can start winter squash, pumpkins, and cucumbers indoors, but just keep in mind that these vegetables all grow very quickly and will soon need to be moved to a larger pot.
When to Start Seeds Indoors
You will need to look up which zone you live in to determine when you should plant your seeds indoors. This information will be on the back of your seed packets. The shorter your growing season, the later you will want to plant your seeds, unless you are able to move them to larger pots indoors before you move them outdoors.
Another great place to find information on when to start your garden seeds is The Almanac. It gives you a complete planting calendar according to your zip code and local frost dates.
In general, seeds should be started about 6 weeks before the last frost date in your local area.
Starting Brussel Sprouts from Seed
Brussel sprouts are a cool weather crop. They have a long growing season of 90 to 120 days, so it’s a good idea to start them inside in early spring. Brussel sprouts are most flavorful and best harvested after the first frost in the fall.
It’s best to start brussel sprouts in individual peat pots. Sow seed 1/4 -1/2 inch deep and keep the soil moist but not wet. Seeds will sprout in about a week. Transplant young plants to the garden when they are 4 to 6 inches tall and have 2 to 4 leaves. They prefer full sun.
Starting Cabbage from Seed
Cabbages are very easy to grow, even for beginning gardeners. They will survive a few days of frost. The growing season for cabbage is 70 to 100 days. In some warmer regions you can plant two crops of cabbage each year.
Plant cabbage seeds indoors about 4 weeks before you are ready to transplant them to the garden. To transplant in the fall, sow your seeds in July or August.
Cabbage plants don’t really like to be transplanted, so it’s a good idea to plant the seeds in peat pots so that the entire pot can be transplanted.
Plant seeds about 1/2 inch apart and 1/4 inch deep. Spray the top of the soil with a plant mister to just moisten the surface. Cabbage doesn’t like soggy or wet soil.
Starting Tomatoes from Seed
Tomatoes are best started 6 weeks before the local frost date. Tomato plants love warm weather, so you don’t want to put them outside until all danger of frost has past.
There are many varieties of tomatoes to choose from, so do your research. Some tomatoes can be grown in pots outdoors if you are short on space. Some plants grow larger and will need more space in your garden.
Tomato plants are best grown with grow lights. Tomato plants need more intense light than some of the other vegetable plants, and the plants will be weak if they don’t get the extra light.
Place 2-3 seeds in each cell of your seed tray. Cover the seeds with approximately 1/4 inch soil.
Use a plant mister to lightly mist the soil. Don’t soak the soil. Only the top layer of soil needs to be moistened.
Starting Broccoli from Seed
Time from planting to harvest for broccoli is 45 to 60 days. Start broccoli 7-9 weeks before the last frost. For a winter crop, you can start seeds in late summer.
Plant the broccoli seeds 1/2 inch deep. and keep the soil lightly misted. Plants are ready for transplant when they have 2 sets of leaves, ideally about 2 weeks before the last frost.
Starting Cauliflower from Seed
Time from planting to harvest for cauliflower is 30 to 80 days. Start cauliflower 5-7 weeks before the last frost. Cauilflower is really sensitive to cold, so you will want to make sure you get the seeds started early enough that the cauliflower will be ready to harvest before the summer heat sets in.
Plant the cauliflower seeds 1/2 inch deep. and keep the soil lightly misted. Plants are ready for transplant when they have 2 sets of leaves, ideally about 2 weeks before the last frost.
Starting Peppers from Seed
Peppers have a long growing season and take longer than a lot of vegetables to germinate. Pepper seeds should be planted between 8-12 weeks before the last frost date.
Pepper seeds should be planted between 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Gently cover the seeds with soil. Don’t compact the soil.
Using a seed tray with a plastic lid will help keep the seeds warm. You can also use a heat mat to help speed the germination along.
Depending on the variety of pepper, pepper seeds take between a week and a month to germinate. Using the heat mat will help.
Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Peppers don’t like extra wet soil. Let the soil dry out slightly between waterings, but don’t let the soil get completely dry.
If pepper plants don’t get the correct amount of light, they will get tall and leggy. You can prevent this by placing a grow light 1-2 inches above your plants to keep them from reaching for the light. Keep lights on 14-16 hours a day.
Starting Peas from Seed
Peas can be started indoors, but they do grow really fast so unless you need to start them indoors, they are one of the first vegetables you can plant outside as soon as the soil can be worked.
Peas can be planted inside 6-8 weeks before the last frost. They need to mature before the summer heat sets in. They do not tolerate heat well. For a fall crop, plant again in late summer.
When starting pea seeds indoors, plant between 1/2 and 1 inch deep. Keep the soil moist but don’t let it dry out completely.
Some varieties of peas can be actually planted and grown in containers, so check varieties before planting, depending on where you want to grow them.
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