The winter months might be uneventful months for most people. However, they are exciting for gardeners who are devoted to seeds. If youve never grown your own plants from seeds before, winter might seem like an odd time to garden. But, in fact, the timing is perfect. Gardeners who start their vegetables, herbs, and flowers from seeds typically start them indoors during the cold months.
Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, lettuce, onions, herbs, and many annual and perennial flowers can be started indoors during winter. Plant species, as well as the variety, will dictate which month is right. This information can be found on the back of or inside individual seed packets. Look for how many days the plant needs to fully mature, as well as the right time to start the plants indoors.
The next thing you should know is your areas frost dates. These are the dates that your zone/area generally has its last (spring) frost, as well as the date when the first (fall) frost shows up. For the most part, winter-sown seeds are started indoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost date for your area. If youre not sure about your frost dates, call your local nursery or contact your local cooperative extension office.
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Why Start Seeds During the Winter?
There are several reasons to start certain seeds weeks or even months before they are planted into their permanent beds outdoors. The first is that it takes many plants quite a while to mature to produce fruit or flowers. Tomatoes are a good example.
Depending on your area, sometimes the necessary days to harvest for that vegetable, herb, or flower is actually longer than the amount of warm days that you actually have from frost date to frost date. By starting these seeds indoors before the natural growing season, you get a jump-start on the amount of time the plants need to mature.
This leads me to the second good reason to start plants early. Even if you do have plenty of warm days for these plants to mature, starting them in winter will have you harvesting tomatoes, peppers, flowers, etc., earlier in the season. You can also stagger your crop production by planting more seeds outdoors once the soil has warmed up.
Also consider that some seeds such as peppers will not germinate in cold soil. If peppers, for example, are planted directly into the garden, youll be harvesting much later in the season than if you had started them indoors on a heating pad months earlier.
The third reason is that when youre dealing with cool-weather plants such as cauliflower, lettuce, and broccoli, you want them actively growing and ready for the garden in the early spring. Its especially important if you live in a hot climate such as California, where we have fleeting springs. We go from winter to a stunning spring and then almost immediately trip into summer with lightning speed. If Im slow about getting my cool-weather plants into the garden, they tend to bolt when the heat hits. Cool days ensure proper growth for delicious things such as broccoli heads.
Look at it this way: if you dont start your own seeds in the winter, some greenhouse somewhere is starting them for you. In the spring or early summer, youll buy those plants from a nursery as seedlings or starts, attached to a heftier price tag.
Here are the best seeds to start now. Have you already gotten a jump start?