It's official... The groundhog says Spring is coming early! If you haven't started your seeds yet, consider this an invitation.
Depending on your location and its last forecasted frost date (USDA Hardiness Map), there are approximately eight weeks left before having to transplant seedlings to the outdoors--just enough time to get started!
Still aren't sure what to sow? There's plenty of herbs and vegetables that are great for small spaces and container gardening... and also ideal for starting indoors. Read on for some popular options for small space gardeners...
Vegetables to Start Indoors
Tomatoes are a vegetable with a long growing period, which makes them an ideal candidate for starting indoors during the winter season. Tomatoes need 6 to 8 weeks for seedlings to reach about 8 inches tall, making February an ideal start time. Germination often happens fairly quick with tomatoes. Using a light-textured potting medium like Green Planet Naturals Seed Starting Mix, this will help your tomatoes germinate, while helping your tomato plant avoid fungi or bacteria that can sometimes affect vegetable seedlings. It is important to harden your tomato plant for a week or two before transplanting to your garden.
Peppers, like tomatoes also have a long growing period which makes them a great option to start indoors. February is a great start time for peppers, considering they need about 8 to 10 weeks before transplanting and will also grow to about 8 inches tall. Most pepper varieties sprout in about a week, and require 70 to 90 degrees F. Peppers like a hot soil which makes Green Planet Naturals Seed Starting Mix and dosages of Green Planet Naturals Blood Meal a good option for keeping your peppers happy inside. Peppers should not be transplanted sooner than 2 to 3 weeks after the last forecasted frost. You may notice your peppers are sluggish until outdoor temperatures improve.
Kale is not only a great nutritional addition to meals, but endures and prefers cooler temperatures. Kale can be an ideal vegetable for apartment dwellers and is easily grown in containers. Kale prefers well-drained soil, rich in organic matter. If a quality growing medium is not readily available, mix your own and add Alfalfa Meal and Kelp Meal to your soil. Both these amendments help to improve soil structure and provide nutrients for optimal growth. Feed Kale approximately four weeks after transplanting with a nitrogen-based fertilizer like Blood Meal. Earthworm Castings is a great alternative to synthetic fertilizers and contains nitrogen.
To start your Kale seeds, fill the seeding tray with Green Planet Naturals Seed Starting Mix, sow two to three seeds per cell and thin seedlings after approximately fourteen days, or when plant has 3-4 true leaves. Follow the seed packet instructions for exact plant depth (approximately ¼ inch deep); cover Kale seeds with seed starting mix; pressing soil down gently. Water thoroughly and keep moist thereafter. Place the tray in a warm place until seeds germinate and move to a sunny windowsill, or place underneath a grow light. Transplants should have 4-6 mature leaves and well developed root system before transplanting.
Baby Spinach (varieties)
Baby Spinach is another great vegetable to start indoors and can be consumed raw or cooked. Similar to Kale, Baby Spinach is also an excellent cold weather option that can be grown from seed. Follow the seeds packet instructions for specifics but for speedy germination, make a compost tea using Green Planet Naturals Organic Compost and soak seeds for 20-25 minutes before sowing. The ideal germination temperature is around 70 degrees F; seeds may not germinate at temperatures higher than 85 degrees F. Baby Spinach leaves should be harvested when approximately two inches tall. Spinach is generally a heavy feeder, be sure to use natural fertilizers; especially when it comes to edibles. Keep plant well-watered-- Baby Spinach requires about 1 to 1 ½ inches of water per week during the growing season, but this will vary depending on container size and temperatures.
First things first – start Broccoli seeds indoors approximately 5-6 weeks before the last spring frosting. It is recommended to plant between 2 to 4 plants per person. Plan to have an 8-inch container available for each Broccoli plant to ensure optimum growth. For continued production of florets, apply a healthy dosage of Green Planet Naturals Blood Meal as a side dressing after first picking. Continue to feed Broccoli with organic compost and Alfalfa Meal throughout the growing season. The most important tip is to continue to harvest florets, once the plant goes into flowering, the end is in sight. In short – feed, harvest, and repeat.
Herbs to start indoors
Patience is the main ingredient necessary for starting Parsley from seed. Germination time varies, but can easily take up to, or even slightly longer than a month. Sow parsley seeds about 1/8 inch deep and keep soil moist, while waiting for signs of life. Transplants should be planted in a deep pot due to Parsley’s long taproot. Parsley should be thoroughly watered, however, allow soil to almost dry completely between soakings. Parsley is also a great herb to have around your garden because it helps attract good bugs, like ladybugs. Parsley will certainly aid in keeping the aphid population in check. Tomatoes are excellent companions for Parsley because they complement each other’s flavors. An unintended benefit of Parsley containers on your balcony or patio, is the wonderful aroma that fills the air.
Thyme is not only an ornamental herb, but practical for a number of reasons. Apart from being an essential ingredient to a lamb or butternut roast, Thyme can be used as a companion plant to Broccoli; deterring whitefly infestations. Thyme is a hardy plant and will grow in almost any type of soil, but prefers sandy soil with good drainage. One does not need to spend much time applying fertilizers to Thyme, it does however, prefer full sun conditions for optimum growth. Thyme produces tiny flowers responsible for a sweet aroma.
Start Sage seeds now, to be ready to transplant seedlings after last frost date. Sage likes to spread out, so allow between 24 to 36 inches between each transplant. Sage does not mind clay soil, however ensure it has the ability to drain well. Sage has a hardiness zone of 4a to 11, and would thrive in most areas of the country. Sage is a wonderful herb to step up your cooking and provide a unique flavor to meat and vegetarian dishes alike. Try this creamy vegan dish with fried sage. Sage also attracts butterflies and honeybees, therefore one is in good company unless you are allergic to bees. Don’t forget to steep some Green Planet Naturals Organic Compost with Worm Castings and apply to your Sage garden a couple of times throughout the growing season.
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