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Don’t start garden seeds indoors too early

Many gardeners start their own garden seeds indoors. Many of these make the mistake of starting plants indoors too soon, only to have tall, leggy straggly plants that are ready to go outside before the weather permit.

Starting seeds indoors is a great way to get your garden started. It takes time and a little bit of startup costs but it will save money when it comes to buying plants.

My biggest reason to start my own plants indoors has to do with the fact that I can have the varieties that I want and I am not limited to those that are available at the garden center.

Not every vegetable should be started indoors. There are many varieties that can be planted right into the ground (direct-seed). These are usually the short season vegetables or root crops that don’t always transplant well. They include lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots, green beans and others.

Seeds that are normally started indoors include tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, those in the squash family, onions (seeds), cucumber, leeks, and eggplant.

These are plants that usually take longer to produce fruit and we like to get a head start on them by starting the plants indoors.

Those that should be started earlier in the year include broccoli and cabbage. These can be planted outside in late March and early April. The time from germination to transplant is five to seven weeks so these should be started in mid- to late February if they are to be planted outside the first of April.

Tomatoes and peppers are usually started around the middle of March. Plants such as squash, cucumber and melons are started in early April.

When starting seeds indoors it’s very important to have the right containers, soil mix, temperature and light.

Containers should have drainage so that the new seedlings don’t sit in water for extended periods of time.

The soil mix should be a lightweight starting mix that is perfect for drainage and the new seedlings.

The temperature should be in the 70s but many don’t keep their home at this temperature. The key would be to keep the seeds a little warmer in order for good germination and growth. This can be done by covering with plastic so that the humidity and temperature is a little higher around the seed bed.

The light should be no more than two inches from the top of the plants in order to prevent stretching. This is accomplished by raising the lights as the plants grow.

Seed starting indoors can be fun and rewarding if you follow these simple tips.

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

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