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Get a Jump on Summer: Starting Seeds Indoors (Part 1)

Written by Julianne Puckett on . Posted in Taste of the Landscape


As spring is just around the corner (knock on wood) here in Vermont, I can finally let my thoughts turn again to gardening.

It’s difficult, over the course of the long winter, to think about next year’s garden when it feels like the cold and the snow might just last forever. But once March rolls around, I begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel and start planning my garden.

Each spring, I make a graph-paper map of my garden and decide what plants I’m going to put where, being mindful that most crops should be rotated around the garden space annually, rather than being replanted in the same place. At the end of the gardening season, I make notes on that map, delineating the successes and failures, yields, pest issues, amounts of mulch and compost used and any other significant items that I want to remember — because, if you’re like me, you can’t remember details from one month to the next, let alone from one year to the next. Then, in the spring, when I make my new plan, I consult the previous year’s notes and use those to guide my plant selection and placement.

A few weeks ago, I drew my plan for my 2013 garden and decided which vegetables I would grow. Now it’s time for the fun part: seed starting.

I’m fortunate that I don’t have to bother to spend time with seed catalogs over the winter months (although for some, this is gardening porn!) because I live right near Gardeners’ Supply, which carries an amazing variety of seeds from a myriad of companies, including several local ones. I just set aside one day as a “seed day” and go shopping for my packets.

Mind you, I didn’t always start my plants from seed. In my earliest gardens, I felt too much the novice to tackle seed starting so I simply bought seedlings from a local garden center and the farmers market. This is still a fine way to plant a garden but can present several issues:

  1. You are limited to only the varieties of vegetables and herbs that your supplier grew. If you want to try some unique heirloom tomato varieties, for example, they might not be available.
  2. If your garden is large or even medium sized (mine is 20′ by 26′), the cost of all those seedlings can really add up. For the price of a single potted seedling, you can buy an entire packet of seeds that will often yield rows and rows of plants.

Once I gained a little gardening confidence (and was reassured by my gardening pals and DIY websites that it isn’t difficult), I began starting my seeds indoors. I quickly became hooked, especially now that I live through much harsher winters, because the seeds I grow bring images of my garden and thoughts of warm summer days to mind sooner than the outdoor weather ever could.

And, even though I still consider myself a novice gardener, I want to share what I have learned, with the hope that I might inspire another novice to take the plunge and start her own seedlings this year. You can read my step-by-step getting started instructions, complete with how-to photographs, on my blog. Be sure to check back here at Vermont Life at the end of April for Part 2: Caring for Your Seedlings.

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