The eggplant and pepper seeds have germinated and the tiny plants are shedding their seed coat to show off their seed leaves. As these cotyledons grow, they’ll form their first “true leaves.”
The tomato seeds I carefully saved at the end of last season will be starting soon, too. Because tomato seeds take less time to sprout and grow than the eggplant and peppers, I like to wait a little longer.
The weather in spring is so unpredictable, it’s best to wait until the night-time temperatures have settled into a reliable 55 degrees before planting. Warm-season vegetables do best when they get off to a good start early in the season.
If you haven’t started your seeds yet, now’s the time. Plan ahead to give your eggplants and pepper seeds some bottom heat with a heating mat. These seeds will sprout quickly if they’re warm enough.
Plant seeds about 1/4-inch deep in sterile seed starting mix or small peat pots. Tiny seeds need to be able to push their way to top of the soil easily.
Make sure the seeds stay moist, and the pots need to have a plastic cover until they sprout. Seeds can dry out if the soil dries out. A good way to water seeds is to use a spray bottle to keep the seeds and soil moist.
Allow the soil to dry ever so slightly before watering again. If the soil is too soggy wet, the seedlings won’t get enough oxygen. Make sure there’s good drainage to keep seeds from drowning.
After seeds sprout, remove the plastic cover and give seedlings plenty of light. A sunny window will work, but for best results you may want to use a grow light. These special fluorescent bulbs give plants enough light to help them grow straight and tall. Keep the light source several inches above the seedlings and then raise the lights as plants grow.
Plants will need about 18 hours of light each day, and a timer makes it simple to give them exactly the right amount of light.
There are some vegetable and herb seeds that grow best if they’re directly sown into the garden bed instead of being transplanted. Radish, beans, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins are easy to plant outside when weather warms.
The key to getting your vegetable garden off to a great start is to time your planting carefully. Select plants and seeds that will have enough time to grow and mature in the number of frost-free days you have, start with healthy plants, and plant them at the right time.
If seeds don’t sprout in a week or so. Plant more!