When it comes to food, few things are more satisfying than choosing to grow and pick your own veggies and fruit. Now is the time to start planning for edibles and to prepare to start seeds.

Seed starting is fairly simple and very rewarding.

  • The extreme basics:
  • Choose seeds.
  • Plant 2 to 3 seeds per pot/cell, water them, and cover.
  • Once seedlings emerge, remove the covering. Be sure to keep seedling evenly moist.

A little more in-depth:

Tonkadale Greenhouse organic seedsChoose your seeds.

Just think about what you want to eat and think about how much space you have.

Know when to start.

Different plants have different timing requirements. Some seeds must be started much earlier than others, while other types will suffer and perform poorly if started indoors too soon. Here are the basics of which seed need to be started at which times.

Mid-February: Start onions from seed and celery now. An easier option is to buy onion sets.

Early March: Cool season crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts should be started at the beginning of March. Head lettuce should also be started now, but leaf lettuce can wait.

Pea seedlings at Tonkadale GreenhouseMid-March: Peppers and eggplant should be started around the middle of March. If growing very hot peppers is in the garden plan, however, start them even earlier. Very hot peppers take longer to ripen and mature, and the more time they have to grow, the better the yield.

Early April: This is the time to start tomatoes. They don’t need to be very big to be ready for the garden, but it’s OK to start them earlier if more mature plants are desired.

Though mid-May is typically the safe time for planting in Minnesota without having to worry about frost, there are a couple important things to consider.

First, always watch the 10-day forecast. Frost can happen later than mid-May, and if you’ve already planted, those little seedlings will need to be covered. Second, there is really no rush to plant tomatoes, peppers or eggplant. These members of the solanaceae family are absolute lovers of heat. They don’t necessarily benefit from being planted early. In fact, the cold soil can stunt their growth for a little while. As long as they’re happily growing in their container, don’t feel rushed to plant them before June 1 (unless the day and night temperatures are unseasonably warm).

Choose your equipment.

Tonkadale Greenhouse seedlings in salad containersThere are several options in seed-starting equipment. Ready-to-go kits can be purchased that include a tray, expandable seed starting mix, and a dome to aid in germination. Trays can also be purchased separately and filled with coconut coir or peat pots and filled with seed starting mix. Cover with a purchased dome or plastic wrap to aid germination.

Purchasing special equipment is nice, but not necessary. Seeds can be started in old produce containers. Lettuce, grape and strawberry containers work particularly well.

Whatever seed-starting method you choose, be sure to label very carefully so that even if the trays or pots get moved around, you know what’s what.

Light, water, and warmth.

Be sure to keep seed-starting mix evenly moist, but not saturated. It is also important to provide enough heat. Often times a warm house is enough, but if seedlings are kept near a window, it can become a little too cold for them.

Tonkadale Greenhouse seedling cupsWindows can be a great way to provide light, but seedlings may need to be rotated to keep them from stretching. Unless there is really a lot of light, supplemental light may be needed. Special grow lights are nice (but expensive) and not necessary. A simple florescent light hung over the seedlings (very close so they don’t have to stretch) is often enough to correct any major issues with plants stretching.

Often, seed packets produce many more plants than are needed or that the typical garden can hold. Consider sharing extra seeds or transplants with others, including community gardens. Many seeds also perform well as microgreens, such as parsley, broccoli, kale, basil, peas, cilantro, and even sunflowers!

Seed starting is simple and fun. As with all gardening, start small − maybe just one or two types of seeds at first.

Tonkadale carries a large variety of seeds (including heirloom and organic) and seed starting equipment, and there is always someone on hand to answer questions about seed starting. Let’s get growing!