Veggie Starting Tips
March 25, 2020 | View PDF
As I write this article, "the first day of spring" (Mar 21) is almost upon us. This is a reminder for many of us in the northern climates that while it may not be "planting season" yet, it is certainly time to begin to think about the outdoors. Many enjoy the summer hobby of planting vegetable gardens and the crisp bite of that fresh cucumber or juicy tomato is a reminder that we're enjoying the summer season. We often receive many questions about starting veggies early to get a head start on the produce season. Therefore, I thought that I would give you some helpful tips and aid in this article. There are many veggie items that can and should be started indoors to help with the timeline of when you can expect fruit. There are other items that perform best when they are direct sown in ground or in their containers.
In general, the appropriate time to begin starting veggies indoors is to work from the last average frost date for your region. For northwest ND and eastern MT that date is generally May 15. If you walk backwards six to eight weeks from that date you will land anywhere from Early to Mid-March. When starting seeds indoors the most challenging issue you will run into is light. People often state that their plants seem "leggy" or stretched and are difficult to move out into the garden when the danger of frost has passed. Ensuring that plants have good light will go a long way in keeping them looking healthy and being a desirable plant. Offer them a bright sunny window or a strong grow light. If choosing LED grow lights do be aware of their strength. It is often best to keep LED lights approximately one foot from the top of the plant. With older fluorescent bulbs you often want to keep them almost right on top of the plant, as their intensity is not nearly as strong. The other factor you will want to keep in mind is the conditions your plants will be starting in and how that will differ from what their outdoor environment will eventually be. Remember that if you are starting plants inside that you should get them used to the windy outdoor environment before you plant them in the ground or their pots. Begin by setting the seedlings out for a few hours each day and bringing them back inside to help "harden them off" to the outdoor elements. This will ensure that you have better success with your transition to the garden. As always we are happy to be your resource for plant questions and challenges, whether it be houseplants, veggies, trees or shrubs. We also have many fun gardening and workshop opportunities. Visit our website to view any of our upcoming workshop opportunities. Thanks and as always "happy growing".