Time to think veggies! For the freshest flavors, just dig in – to the dirt and then the dish – courtesy of your very own vegetable garden!

Ever try starting your veggies from seed? Tonkadale has seed starting equipment including trays, seed starting mix, peat pots, and of course, seeds!

Seed starting kits are easy to use. Arrange the included pellets in the seed starting tray, add water, and plant your seed -two to three per pellet. The clear plastic dome provided with the kit keeps heat and moisture in, creating optimal conditions for germinating seeds. Remove the dome once the seeds have sprouted. Seeds can also be planted in peat pots and seed starting mix – just cover with plastic wrap to aid germination. After seedlings emerge, thin to one per pellet or pot.

Seedlings in peat pots

Seedlings in peat pots from gardeningknowhow.com

Seedlings need quality light and will do best with supplemental lighting – at least 12 hours. Grow lights are great, but an inexpensive florescent shop light, especially one warm and one cool light, will do the trick. Seedlings also need a rest – at least 8 hours.

Seeds like warmth, and windowsills are often too cold. A heat mat designed for seed starting can improve germination, but is not necessary as long as seeds are in a warm room without cold drafts.

Harden off transplants by gradually introducing them to the outdoors about a week before planting.

Seedlings in peat pots can be planted directly in the ground. The pot will disintegrate as the plant’s roots grow through. Be sure that the entire peat pot is under the soil. If the edge of the pot is exposed to air the roots will dry out and the plant won’t survive.

Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants require extra growing time, so these seeds should be started 6-8 weeks before the last frost (around May 15 in Minnesota). Tonkadale carries a variety of organic and heirloom seeds, as well as gardener’s favorites.

Once your veggies are planted, there are a few important basics to remember for successful veggie gardening.

If possible, use drip irrigation. If using a hose, water the soil at the base of the plant. If you have an overhead sprinkler system, water early in the day so the leaves have a chance to dry out – this lessens the likelihood of disease. If gardening in containers you may need to water twice a day on very hot days.

Soil is more than a place holder for your plants. Amending soil with compost feeds the plant and improves drainage in both sandy and clay soils. Also be sure to fertilize, plant need to eat, too!

Need more hints? Watch the video of the presentation from last week’s veggie gardening seminar. You can also use our handout from the seminar (PDF) and our Seed Starting Worksheet (PDF) to keep track of your seedlings.

You may want to consider edible landscaping – planting edibles and ornamentals together. For ideas, check out Rosalind Creasy’s website: http://www.rosalindcreasy.com/

Finally, when choosing seeds or transplants keep in mind what you like to eat, new flavors you might like to try, and how you will use the abundance of fresh food – raw, in cooking, preserving, or share with friends, family, and the food shelf!

For more information on seed starting and vegetable gardening, visit the University of Minnesota Extension website http://www.extension.umn.edu/