Baby lettuce growing around decorative rocks

Seeds to start now

In Blog, Edibles, Feature, Gardening, Spring by Megan Nichols2 Comments

Trying your hand at indoor seed starting this year? Now is the time to begin! Not all seeds need to be, or even should be, started this early, but, it’s right on time (actually, early March is best) for a few favorite varieties.

Plants in the Solanaceae family need a longer time to grow. This family of plants includes the ever-popular tomato, pepper, and eggplant.

Tomato sprouts

It also includes potatoes, but those are started from tubers and not until the ground is thawed. More on those later.

Peppers, Tomatoes, and Eggplants should be started 8-12 weeks before last frost (which is usually around May 15th). This makes March the perfect time. Sow 2-3 seeds per seed starting cell or container. Learn more about that process in our previous post about seed starting.

Germination of these seed varieties can be slow (especially peppers), so don’t be discouraged if it takes several days, even weeks, before anything happens. Daylight is still quite short in MN this time of year, so once seedlings emerge, place them under a grow light or just a simple shop light to increase light exposure a few extra hours each day.

Most plants first leaves will look the same as any other, but they will soon develop new leaves that look more like the plants they actually are and less like the unidentifiable seed leaves. When first true leaves are present, thin planting cell or container to strongest plant by pinching off weaker plants near the soil line.

As seedlings grow, raise the light, keeping it an inch or two above the seedlings so they don’t stretch and become leggy.

When it comes time to harden off (acclimate the plants to the outdoors), watch the 10 day forecast. Keep in mind that last frost has often occurred later than mid-May, so you’ll want to plan accordingly. Also good to know is that the University of Minnesota Extension recommends planting these crops around June 1st. They really love the heat, so there is no real benefit for them to be planted mid-May and out in the chilly nighttime temps. They’ll just sit there and not really grow.

Other crops to consider starting early are kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and head lettuce so they have enough time to grow to maturity for harvest.

Comments

  1. How do you get thicker tomato stalks besides keeping the grow lights right above the plant as they grow?

    1. Author

      For thicker stalks direct a fan (preferably oscillating) at the tomatoes. This mimics a breeze, and the movement causes the stems to thicken. They will also likely need to be transplanted into larger containers at least once before they are ready to go outside, and that’s a good time to set them deep into the container and encourage thicker stem growth.

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