There are so many reasons to start your vegetables from seed—including better taste, the short travel time from your garden to your table, and the sure knowledge you know where your food is coming from. Ed Hume, award-winning garden TV and radio personality and founder of the family-owned business, Hume Seeds, has great advice for which vegetables you can start indoors right now—and exactly how many plants you need to transplant into your garden later. Most are these are perfect for the greenhouse, but you can also start a few of your favorites on a sunny windowsill, or under lights in a frost-free garage.
Ed suggests planning ahead. He says, “Your plan might include decisions on family needs, lists of your favorite varieties, and the number of plants or space devoted to each crop.” His suggestions for how many you plant out is based on a family of four. You can adjust the numbers, depending on how many people you’ll be feeding, their appetites and preferences. Seed packets are generous. Share with friends and neighbors if you have more than you can use.
All these seedlings can benefit from LED grow lights, which you move up as they inch higher. Ed’s cool-season plant suggestions can go outside in early spring. Give the warm-season plants a boost by adding a heat mat under them. For optimum growth, the warm-season vegetables can go into the ground when soil temperatures reach about 55 degrees.
Use a seed-starting mix and cover the seeds with the mix or sand to the appropriate depth. Ed says, “One of the main reasons seeds don’t germinate is planting them too deep.” You can put in more seeds than you need in six-pack cells or two-inch pots, and then thin aggressively—nail scissors work great—until you have the sturdiest plants. Water regularly.
Broccoli – Sow at 1/8 inch depth; move outside approximately a month after germination. (12-15 plants)
Cabbage – Sow at 1/8 inch. Light-weight row covers are effective to block cabbage moths. (12-15 plants)
Cauliflower – Sow at 1/8 inch. This one likes to be “moderately moist,” Ed says. (12-15 plants)
Lettuce (leaf) – 1/8 inch; Make sowings every two weeks until midspring. Again in fall. (30 plants)
Kohlrabi – Sow at 1/8 inch: “Excellent with dips,” Ed says. (15 plants)
Spinach – Sow at 1/4 inch; (10-20 plants)
Peppers – 1/8 to 1/4 inch, depending on variety; (6-10 plants)
Pumpkins – 1/2 inch depth; Ed says this is the “ideal Halloween crop.” (3 plants)
Squash – 1/2 inch depth; So many kinds, both summer and winter. (3-6 plants)
Tomatoes – 1/8 inch depth; Choice of cherry, slicing, or sauce tomatoes. (10-15 plants)