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