Dreaming of your own veggie garden, but not sure where to start? Here’s how to sprout vegetable seedlings right on your windowsill.

"There are some great advantages to growing your plants from seed," says Lee Sullivan, who runs the Urban Veggie Patch Instagram account from her home in Australia. "There is greater diversity in terms of what you can grow, and you have control over how the seedlings are raised, which is especially important if you are committed to organic growing."

It’s an almost indescribable feeling: that moment mid-summer when you’re feeding your family fresh, delicious food that you grew from mere seeds. Not only is it incredibly rewarding, but it will also taste better than anything from the grocery store. However, it doesn’t come without a little trial and error—and a whole lot of patience. “For the new gardener, if you’re starting with seeds, there are a lot of challenges, and there is a lot to learn,” says Kyle Hagerty of Urban Farmstead. To learn how to navigate a new garden, we caught up with Hagerty and other green thumbs around the globe.

When starting from seeds, Kyle Hagerty from Urban Farmstead suggests a variety of simple, DIY methods. "Some use egg cartons, some people use plastic Solo Cups, paper pots out of newspaper, or used egg shells," he says. "But at most nurseries or hardware stores—and of course online—you can order seedling germination containers or trays."

When starting from seeds, Kyle Hagerty from Urban Farmstead suggests a variety of simple, DIY methods. “Some use egg cartons, some people use plastic Solo Cups, paper pots out of newspaper, or used egg shells,” he says. “But at most nurseries or hardware stores—and of course online—you can order seedling germination containers or trays.”

Courtesy of Kyle Hagerty / Urban Farmstead

Figuring Out When—and What—to Plant

Forget the containers. Forget the compost. When it comes to vegetable gardening for the first time, it all starts with a calendar. As many regions have only a few months that are frost-free, understanding your climate and growth window is step one. “A lot of gardening starts even before you get soil or a tray,” says Hagerty, whose instructional gardening videos cover everything from soil tests to irrigation systems.  

While all seeds will have different instructions on the packets, a general rule of thumb is to start sowing seeds indoors six to eight weeks before your last frost date. Let’s say you missed that window. What happens if you start sowing anyway? We’ll walk you through that scenario using the trusty tomato.

Large varieties of tomatoes have a lengthy time to mature. Start seeds early for vegetables with longer maturity times or opt for nursery starts if you've missed the window.

Large varieties of tomatoes have a lengthy time to mature. Start seeds early for vegetables with longer maturity times or opt for nursery starts if you’ve missed the window.

Courtesy of Lee Sullivan, Urban Veggie Patch

It’s late May, and you spin the wire display rack in search of beefsteak tomato seeds. It will take two weeks for seedlings to sprout, and then another few weeks before they reach the right height to be transplanted into the ground. Add 10 more days to harden them off (we’ll dive into that later), and we’re well into July. That’s the point when you can finally calculate “days to maturity,” which you will also find on the seed packet, indicating the date you’ll be able to harvest your crops. For that beefsteak tomato, it could be 80 to 90 days. That brings us to September or early October: you haven’t even seen your first tomato, and the fall frost is looming. 

It may be too late for that varietal based on your zone, but not to despair. “If you realize you missed the boat now, you can start planning for fall what you want to grow, and start researching now,” says Jasmine Jefferson, founder of Black Girls with Gardens, which provides gardening support, inspiration, and education for women of color. For planting this season though, she suggests some quick-growing options like lettuce, radish, beans, peas, and herbs, which mature in less than two months. “Whatever you plant, start small,” she says. “That is the number one thing. You don’t want to be overwhelmed. There are going to be failures, and you don’t want to be overwhelmed by them. Master what you’re doing, then take it to the next step.”

Jasmine Jefferson founded Black Girls With Gardens and Black Men With Gardens to represent, educate, and inspire people of color in the gardening world, and is soon launching a coach program.

Jasmine Jefferson founded Black Girls With Gardens and Black Men With Gardens to represent, educate, and inspire people of color in the gardening world, and is soon launching a coach program.

Courtesy of @blackgirlswithgardens

See the full story on Dwell.com: The Beginner’s Guide to Starting Vegetable Seeds Indoors

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