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When to start planting herb seeds indoors? And when to start planting in the soil?
Answer by Christine Bold, co-author, Gardening: The Secrets of Planting Success
Contrary to popular belief, when you do start seeds indoors, you are not starting them too early. The season that should be recommended is the second half of the spring. The ideal time of year for planting in the soil is early to mid-fall. Here’s why:
Starts from seed – Most seeds take between 3-4 weeks to germinate in soil. Many new gardeners, however, simply buy the seeds at the grocery store in late spring and expect them to germinate in two weeks, forgetting that soil bacteria do not replicate and there is no sunlight for seedlings to use. Seedlings are best in a container which means that light levels are much higher than soil, helping the seedlings grow faster. Germination rates are much better when starting seeds in the soil, in pots or even recycled pots, in the very first half of spring. Start seeds indoors, so that you can be sure of nice, clean, ready-to-go seeds, ready to transplant out in the garden when you are ready.
Germination rates – The best time to plant a seed in the soil is in the first half of spring when the soil temperature is between 40-65 degrees. When planting seeds in the soil, the seed comes in contact with all kinds of beneficial bacteria, earthworms and fungi that help to break down the coat of the seed and hasten germination. Planting seeds early in spring also assures that you are purchasing the best product, seeds that are less likely to rot after they are transplanted, which is a problem with early plantings in the spring that start from seed. When starting seeds indoors, you can sit back, relax and know that you will have seeds that are ready to plant in soil that is warm and full of growing power. In the spring, you will have to work very hard to beat Mother Nature. She has worked it all out in advance.
Bulking up soil with compost – If you are starting seeds in pots, keep in mind that your best defense against root rot is growing your seedlings in well-drained pots. Do not buy plastic-covered pots. Choose well-draining pots with drainage holes at the bottom that provide good airflow. Because these pots are taller than a pot plant will grow in the ground, you may need to get extra root containers to accommodate a larger number of seedlings than your standard sized pots will allow. Keep in mind that these pots are also taller than you may want your seedlings to get, so you will have to plant them slightly deeper than they would in the ground. The soil mixture that you use should be well drained, compost-based, and rich in humus. Make sure that you are adding plenty of organic matter, such as shredded bark, leaves, grass clippings, clean soil, chopped-up manure and leaf compost, to your pots.
High light, cool temperatures – The seedlings will be crowded if you are starting them in a window, unless you choose a sunny spot in the house. In this case, you will need a window that allows lots of light. The seedlings should be in a cold frame, greenhouse or a cool, sunny part of the house during the day and then moved to a cool basement or garage at night. If you are just starting seeds indoors, you should use a frame or a small greenhouse with enough space to accomodate a few seedlings at a time. If you are starting seeds indoors, keep in mind that the seedlings need light but they do not need a lot of light, seedlings are low-light plants and prefer less light than is used in a full-size greenhouse.
Growing in containers – If you start seeds in containers, you can grow several seedlings in your house for a couple of months before you plant them in the garden. If you start seeds in pots outdoors, grow in a container that is as large or larger than the pot size required for the plant you are growing. Remember that your seedlings may not like to grow out of the pots you buy. A good potting mix, with plenty of compost, will help the soil remain in good condition even after the seedlings have grown out of the pots. Plant your seeds and plants with a little bit of fertilizer, then pot up your young plants into the larger pots. Your plants may look more like shrubs when they are grown in large containers, but don’t worry – they will form new roots and be fine. You may even be able to give some potted plants away to friends if you grow out too much.
The Bottom Line
It doesn’t matter what time of year you start your seeds indoors. This is the time of year when you need to start. It’s also the time of year when you need to get started with soil-based gardening, when you need to get your soil nice and ready for plants.
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2 Responses to When to start planting herb seeds indoors? And when to start planting in the soil?
This article is pretty cool. I am new to growing plants indoors and actually want to start growing in the soil this spring. I am growing sunflower and onions but the seed company doesn’t sell any seeds until next spring. I need the seeds by next spring so I can plant in my garden. Should I start them indoors now or wait until next spring? Thanks
if you have some experience with sunflowers already, it might be easier just to go to a nursery and buy some plants next year. if you start them now, they might suffer and die before you plant them in the garden next year. they are sensitive to dampness and need a while to adjust to the cooler temperatures.
as for starting seed indoors…you could, but the problem with starting them indoors, and certainly the only problem you would have in starting seeds indoors, is that you have to start them in soil. if you start them on potting soil, they can get wet and