8 Things To Think About Before Starting Seeds


* This article contains affiliate links. For more information, please read my Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Get the most out of your vegetable garden this year by taking a few moments to consider these eight things before you even begin seed starting. #seedstarting #startseeds #homegarden #growyourownfoodAt long last, the snow on the ground has almost all melted, the songbirds are chirping in the forest around us, the crocuses and daffodils have poked their heads out of the ground and there’s a distinct feeling of spring in the air. 

I LOVE this time of year.

Full disclosure: I actually love every seasonal transition. Spring to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter and winter to spring. I get a little dreamy when the seasons begin to change and we enter a new time of year with fresh projects to tackle and things to enjoy. 

But the transition from winter to spring is truly a special time. It’s when life begins again. It’s the very first taste of the times of plenty that lie ahead.

As a gardener, the beginning of spring means one thing above all: seed starting season. 

We grow all of our annual vegetables from seed so we need to start thinking about what we’re planting by the end of winter. We usually start our first seeds indoors in February and by March we’re in full-on seed starting mode. 

The onions, green onions and leeks get planted first in February. Then come the tomatoes and peppers in early March. Next is the broccoli and cabbage and then we start to direct sow our other veggies like carrots, beets and peas. 

I also start some of our herbs from seed, like sage, lavender and cannabis. So needless to say, we need a little bit of indoor growing space and some forethought before planting to make sure we set ourselves up for growing success from seed to harvest each year.

 

Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Organic Gardening

 

There are always a few things to consider before starting seeds in the spring. For starters, aside from what you’ll be planting, you also need to decide how much of each plant you’ll grow. Trust me, I know first hand that it’s all too easy to start more seeds than you actually have room for in your garden! Then again, it’s always better to over-plant and thin out seedlings than to not plant enough (in my opinion anyways).

Next you’ll need to know how and when to start your chosen seeds. Do they need to be direct sown or should you start them indoors? When should you plant them? And by the way, what gardening zone are you in again?

Yep, there’s a lot to think about before you even start your seeds. But don’t worry if you’ve already begun! In my experience the garden has a way of working itself out. Still, it never hurts to start off on the right foot:)

 

8 things to consider before starting vegetable seeds

 

1. When is your last average frost date?

Above all else, you should know two things as a gardener: your first and last average frost dates. The entire gardening season revolves around these two dates, and knowing your last frost date is critically important when it comes to seed starting. 

Starting your seeds indoors too early could mean that they grow too large before the weather warms up and they need more space than you can provide them with indoors. Direct sowing them too early might mean that the seeds won’t germinate. Starting them too late could mean a shorter season and a smaller harvest or, for cold weather varieties, it could mean the plants will bolt and go to seed before you’ve had a chance to harvest them for food.

As long as you know your approximate last frost date for your area and gardening zone (which you should also know), then you’ll have a good idea when to start all of your seeds. I find The Old Farmer’s Almanac (online edition) to be the easiest and most accurate way to find first and last frost dates for all different garden zones.

 

2. Do the seeds need to be direct sown or started indoors?

While some seeds can either be started indoors or direct sown, others are more particular about where they take root. Peas, for example, don’t like to have their roots disturbed, so they do better when direct sown outdoors in the place where they’ll remain. Tomatoes and peppers, on the other hand, need to be started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date in most gardening zones because they won’t have time to mature and produce much fruit if you wait until the weather outside is warm enough to direct sow.

Do some research on the types of seeds you’re planting and find out whether you need to start them indoors early in the season or whether they’ll do better direct sown in the garden. For a quick reference guide, grab a copy of our free Seed Starting Cheat Sheet for tips on how to start 10 common garden vegetables from seed.

 

3. How many plants of each variety do you want to grow?

Figuring this out with better accuracy gets easier year after year as you begin to get a feel for how much space you have in your garden and how much of each vegetable you and your family actually eat. 

For us, we can never grow too many tomato plants. Even if we can’t fit them in the garden beds, we can always plant them in buckets (and we can always get more buckets if we have too many plants!) We love eating tomatoes fresh-off-the-vine in the summer and use them in all sorts of sauces and preserves for use over the winter.

Cucumbers, however, are major producers and a handful plants will give us all that we need for fresh eating and preserving (pickling cukes are another story, although I get those from a local farm). So we only plant 5 or 6 cucumber plants max.

It helps to have an idea of how much of each vegetable you’ll actually use (and have space in your garden for). Think about what you and your family eat the most and start there. If you’re not sure or you’ve never tried growing a particular vegetable before, err on the side of growing less. See how you like it first before allowing it to take up valuable real estate in your garden. This is especially true if you’re limited on garden space and want to get the most out of every inch. Besides, if you discover something new that you really like, you can always plant more next year:)

 

4. Where will you plant your seeds & seedlings?

If direct sowing, where exactly will you plant your seeds? You’ll want to move your annual vegetables as little as possible so that their roots can really take hold so think about where you want to put them before you put them there! 

You should also think about where you’ll eventually be transplanting your seedlings to when they’re ready to go outside. Taking time to map out your garden and decide what will go where before starting seeds and considering things like crop rotation and companion planting ahead of time will help your plants to thrive in your garden later on.

 

5. What will you start seeds in?

If you’re starting seeds indoors, you’ll need to decide what you’re going to start your seeds in. You can start seeds in all sorts of things, from egg cartons to eggshells, recycled plastic containers to cell trays and everything in between. Decide what makes the most sense for you and the veggies you’re growing. 

For seedlings you’ll be transplanting into the garden early in the season (like lettuce), you could opt for small cell trays or shallow egg cartons. For plants that will be indoors longer and need more room to grow (like tomatoes), opt for peat pots or save money by making your own seed starting pots out of newspaper.

 

6. How will you ensure your indoor seedlings get adequate light?

If you’re starting seeds indoors, you’ll need a light source to mimic the sun once seedlings sprout. Now, you can always put seedlings near a warm sunny window and use the actual sun as your light source, but since you’ll be starting many of your seeds in the winter or early spring when it’s still cold outside (and chilly near windows), your best bet is to set up some indoor growing lights.

Get the most out of your vegetable garden this year by taking a few moments to consider these eight things before you even begin seed starting. #seedstarting #startseeds #homegarden #growyourownfood

You can purchase grow lights online or at your local garden supply store or grab some fluorescent lights from the hardware store and make your own indoor growing stand. Either way, make sure you’ve got a light source set up and ready to go before your seedlings sprout.

 

7. Where will you set up your indoor seedlings?

I’ve seen people grow seedlings on kitchen countertops and even set up grow lights on their living room floor, but that would never fly in this house with a toddler and two cats roaming around. In fact, we lost the very first round of broccoli seedlings we ever started to our kitten because we put them in a way too accessible place. Now we grow our seedlings on a metal shelving unit fitted with lights, in our laundry/mud room away from prying toddler hands and curious kitty cat paws.

Another thing you should be careful of is to keep them away from any heat sources (other than grow lights, the sun or a heating pad meant for growing seedlings, of course). Keeping seedlings too close to a heater or wood stove can dry out the soil and even kill the seedlings.

You’ll need to consider your space and any special circumstances (dogs, cats, kids, heaters, etc.) and make sure to keep your seedlings in a safe spot so they actually make it to the garden!

 

8. How will you care for them if you need to go away?

Seedlings are like babies: they require constant care and they’re very fragile until they’re strong enough to go out on their own (to the garden, that is).

While you might be able to get away with leaving full-grown plants alone for a week or so in the summer, or maybe have a neighbour water them once every few days, seedlings pretty much need daily care to make sure they survive. Germinating seeds especially need consistent watering to keep the soil moist. So what should you do if you need to go away from home for a few days or even a week or two while your seedlings are still just getting started?

If you have a good neighbour, friend or family member to care for them on a consistent basis, consider yourself lucky. Just make sure you go over your light and watering schedule with them. We’ve left seedlings with a friend before and lots of them died because they were either over-watered or under-watered. We had to start lots of our seeds all over again which put us a few weeks behind. Moral of the story: make sure whoever is caring for them knows what they’re doing.

Seed starting | grow lights | indoor growing | starting seeds indoors

Another option is to automate your lights and watering. We use a light timer on our grow lights that shuts off at 10 pm and turns back on at 6 am when our seedlings are just getting started. Seedlings need lots of light, but still, the lights shouldn’t be on 24/7 because they need a natural “night” period as well. Light timers are super inexpensive and make indoor growing just that much easier, so I recommend one even if you’re not going anywhere.

Likewise, setting up an automatic watering system can save you from having to hand water and is definitely a good idea if you’re going away and don’t have anyone to come water every day.

We’re headed on a very rare beach vacation at the end of March this year, so we invested in a basic drip irrigation system and watering timer for less than $50 so that we can set up automatic watering for our seedlings while we’re away. The bonus is that we can set up that drip irrigation system outside when our seedlings are ready to go out and automate some of our outdoor watering all season long. Drip irrigation is especially good for plants like tomatoes that don’t like to get their leaves wet!

 

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

There’s a lot to think about when you’re planning your garden, and honestly, these are just a handful of the things you’ll want to consider before even starting your annual vegetable seeds. But the more experience you gain as a gardener, the better you’ll get at planning for a productive and plentiful garden each year. The most important thing of all is that you take action and get those seeds started!

Even if you mess something up or have a #gardenfail, you’ll learn valuable lessons that will help you improve your garden game year after year. That’s how we’ve learned almost everything we know about gardening today, and I can say without a doubt that we head into each new gardening season with more knowledge than we had the year before.

At the end of the day, your garden is a classroom where you should feel free to learn and play and experiment without worrying about it being “perfect.” Because there’s no such thing as a perfect garden, or a perfect gardener! There’s always more to learn, even for the most experienced gardener. In the meantime, you get to enjoy some beautiful homegrown vegetables and marvel at the miracle of growing a big, luscious, life-giving plant from nothing more than a tiny seed. How cool is that?

What will you be growing from seed this year? What past garden failures have you learned from and what will you do differently this year? Let me know if the comments below!

P.S. Don’t forget to grab your free Seed Starting Cheat Sheet and take the guesswork out of starting 10 common garden vegetables from seed!

—-> Seed Starting Cheat Sheet (Free Download!)

P.P.S. If you’re serious about growing your own food at home, then make sure to download my free guide, How to Grow Your Own Food in Less Than 15 Minutes A Day and learn how to grow an organic grocery store in your backyard even if you’re limited on time!

 

Wishing you homemade, homegrown, homestead happiness 🙂

 

 

 


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ABOUT ANNA
Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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'Tis the season! And if you didn't start planning as soon as Christmas was over last year, you may be feeling the pressures of the holidays right about now. Between ever-soaring prices and the mental load of keeping track of it all, this magical time of year, can sometimes feel, not so magical. ⁣

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As homesteaders, winter offers us a reprieve from the busy seasons; A time to rest, relax and recharge until next spring. But after a while, we can become restless and cabin fever can start to set in.

Folks like us tend to like to stay productive, even while living slow, intentional lives. We like to feel like we accomplished something every day, whether that means tackling a new project, learning a new skill, preparing a new recipe or simply reading and acquiring some new information that will serve us down the road.

Winter presents us with the perfect opportunity to do all of the above, because as much as there may be snow on the ground and we may feel as if our hands are tied as far as certain outdoor activities we like to partake in the rest of the year, our time is suddenly freed up to focus on all sorts of different things that we often don’t have time for during the spring, summer and fall months.

In the latest issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, we’re highlighting some of the ways that we can keep entertained and productive and continue learning and adding new skills to our repertoire during the winter months while still taking time to slow down from our usual pace and celebrate all that we’ve achieved over the past year.

In this issue, you’ll find:
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It's also super quick and easy to make yourself.⁣

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What’s in your bug out bag??

Yesterday I was in my Stories sharing a bit about emergency preparedness and what I’m doing to get prepared for whatever the future holds.

I also asked YOU what emergency skills or supplies you recommend having in your back pocket “just in case,” and one of the responses I got was to have a bug out bag packed and ready to go.

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Do you keep a bug out bag packed?

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What types of emergency situations are you preparing for in your area?

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Do you have what you need on hand to take care of yourself and your family in the event of a worst case scenario?

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One of our neighbours passed away very suddenly last week (just 50 years old 😔) and it reminded me of just how quickly things can go sideways. As far as we know he suffered a heart attack, and while his wife did everything she could to save him, by the time the ambulance arrived it was too late. It was a wake up call for me, that not only do we need to be prepared with supplies on hand, but with knowledge and skills too. I’m definitely looking into booking a refresher First Aid course and highly recommend everyone reading this do the same if this is a skill you need to brush up on!

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This is why I do what I do and why I share it with you on a regular basis; I WANT TO EMPOWER YOU TOO!

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Do you dream of escaping the rat race and starting a homestead far from the chaos of the modern world?

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In the latest issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, I sat down with Ann Accetta-Scott of @afarmgirlinthemaking to talk all about what people need to know about buying and selling a homestead property.

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This is why people don’t trust our medical system!!!

I very rarely go on a rant about current events but this has me feeling really fired up…

My husband and I each got an Amber Alert on our phones the other night along with millions of other British Columbians, informing us of a child abduction in Vancouver. It made the suspect sound like a dangerous kidnapper and said “do not approach. Call 911.”

As it turns out, it was the mother of the child (a 3-year-old boy), who had refused medical treatment without getting a second opinion and follow up blood tests, so the Ministry of Child and Family Services was called, she was arrested and her son was taken from her and was administered medical treatment in the hospital without consent and without a guardian present.

There’s a lot more to this story than I’m able to share in this video or this caption, so I’ll post some links below where you can hear directly from the mom what happened, and check out other IG accounts that have been in direct contact with her and the father. But the point is this was a GROSS misuse of our Amber Alert system, a GROSS abuse of power (turns out the boy wasn’t sick in the end anyway), and has now traumatized this family for life.

Doctors are not gods and as mothers we do not co-parent with the government!!!

This hits close to home for me because I too have been through the medical system and had my concerns dismissed, was misdiagnosed and given wrong information, and was treated with obvious contempt when I got a second opinion.

In this day and age of rampant medical coercion and the erosion of bodily autonomy over our own bodies and over those of our children, this story highlights the dangers of the very slippery slope we’re on.

As parents who only have the best interests of our children at heart, this could happen to any one of us. We can’t let this be normalized. Remember “first they came for (fill in the blank), and I said nothing. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Check out my stories for the full video that the mom, Wiloh made explaining the details of what happened or check out the comments for links to learn more & support this family.
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I’ve hesitated about posting this reel over and over because I know I’ll probably get backlash, hate and vitriol from some people in return. But I wouldn’t be being true to myself if I didn’t speak the truth that’s on my heart and mind…

If you haven’t noticed, there are currently thousands of Canadians sharing their stories and using the hashtag #trudeaumustgo on their social media posts right now in response to the divisive rhetoric and actions of our prime minister over the past few months. But our media has downplayed the issue and has attributed most of the hashtags to “bot” accounts and foreigners trying to influence our politics.

In response, real Canadians are making videos and sharing their stories to show that we are not bots, but real people who have been negatively affected by the words and actions of our leaders, particularly our leader at the top.

I used to consider myself a lifelong leftist and have supported the liberal government and Trudeau over the years, but after what I’ve witnessed over the past few months; After how he has spoken about Canadians who have made a different medical choice or who have protested mandates (which have done nothing to stop the spread of you-know-what anyway); After the hate and division that has trickled down from the top and infiltrated our communities, I can no longer stand silently by.

While I am 💉, a few months ago when I voiced my support for those who stood up against mandates and against the division being pushed on us by our leadership, I suddenly found myself among what our prime minister called the “small fringe minority” of citizens with “unacceptable views.”

I lost followers, friends and even a couple family members. I was told I’d been “radicalized,” although my views have never changed.

So today I’m adding my voice to the chorus of real, everyday Canadians who are taking a stand against tyranny and division in this country. As the saying goes, if we do not stand for something, we’ll fall for anything. I stand for freedom & autonomy, and against division & tyranny.

#trudeaumustgo

(Special thanks to fellow 🇨🇦 homesteader @meggarlandd for inspiring me & giving me the courage to post this:)
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