The third in a series of posts about creating your own organic backyard vegetable garden.
HOW TO START YOUR VEGGIES INDOORS
Starting Your Vegetable Seeds Indoors
In preparation for spring planting of your vegetable garden there may be some seeds that you want to start indoors ahead of time. These generally include vegetables that have a need for a long growing season that they may not receive in certain regions of the country. When cold temperatures and shorter day lengths kick in many vegetables that love warm hot weather for long periods of time will not produce as well. Starting seeds indoors several months ahead of time will allow you to have those plants produce well outside. Each seed packet that you purchase will most likely have a recommendation for when to start your seeds indoors or it will suggest just direct sowing after the last frost date in your area.
Some common northwest seeds for Washington and Oregon that could be started indoors are hot peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and cabbage. There are many others that fit the bill too. You will want to have your seed 2-3 months ahead of time to be ready. Then everything else comes down to soil, water, light, and heat.
The easiest thing to start off with is some premixed soil specifically for seeds that you can find at your local nursery or hardware store. You will only need a bag or two to get started. You will want to fill very small pots, seed trays, or homemade newspaper pots with your seed mix to slightly below the rim. Press down firmly with your fingers. Then follow the seed packet directions for how deeply to plant. Slowly water in lightly afterward just enough to moisten the soil. Place your seed pots or trays underneath a light fixture with a full spectrum bulb. You can purchase these from hardware stores or online. Many are very inexpensive light fixtures that you can hang in your house or garage. Just make sure the light bulbs are full spectrum as this will give the best results inside. You want to have the lights only a few inches above the soil until the seeds germinate. After a week or two depending on growth you can raise the lights up higher. You will want to keep the temperature at 60 to 70 degrees depending on the type of seed you are growing. Initially, every other day check the soil to see if it is staying moist but not soggy. If the soil is drying out water lightly. After the seedlings have rooted in the pots/trays well you will want to check the soil every day to see if they need additional water.
A week or two before you last frost date (Check online for your region for what day it is usually) take your plants outside into a protected area such as a garage with a windows or covered porch and grow them outside for several weeks before planting. This will help your plants to adjust to the temperature difference between inside and outside and harden off. After 2-3 weeks carefully transplant your new baby plants into the soil. Make sure to plant your veggie starts only as deep as the soil of the pots that were grown in. Water in gently as needed to keep the soil moist but not soggy. This is one general approach for the average person to grow seeds indoors though there are more specific options as well.