Even though summer still feels so far away and we just got a dusting of snow this past weekend, it is time to start thinking about my vegetable garden! If you want to start your garden from seeds, a good way to get a head start on the growing season is to sprout your seeds indoors. In Ohio, we have a shorter window of warm weather than many other parts of the country. By starting my plants indoors now, I can transplant them outside to my garden beds when old man winter moves on and the threat of frost is gone.
I love ordering my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They sell seeds from all over the world and I have had great success with their unique varieties. I have also ordered live plants from them and have not been disappointed. Here are my tomatoes, peppers, kale, and swiss chard from last year that I grew from seed and some purple sweet potatoes that I grew in a 15 gallon bucket from their live plants.
Starting your plants indoors is easy and I love watching the little fellas grow! Last year, I sprouted my tomatoes and peppers indoors without a grow light or heat mat. If you have a really sunny room in your house, you should be able to get the seeds to germinate by using only a starter dome to create a humid environment. This year, however, I am going to experiment with heat mats and a grow light to see if it improves the process.
For the soil, I used a mix of dirt from my garden and compost, but you can also buy starting mix. Make sure you keep the soil moist. Some plants will take longer to germinate than others and may require more heat and light. I leave the clear lid to the dome on until the seedlings start to hit the top (if you are using heat mats to speed germination, remove them after the plants sprout to avoid damaging the roots). If you aren't planning on using a grow light, make sure to rotate them as they start reaching for the window so that the plants don't end up catawampus (southern term for "uneven", "crooked", or "out of whack).
As the plants grow, they may get too big for the compartments of the starter dome and need more leg room. I usually just tranfer them into plastic cups and add more soil if it is not time to put them outside yet. Find out what growing zone you live in and your area's planting calendar to see when to plant your seeds indoors and when it is safe to transplant outside.