Almost time to sow seeds
GROWING your own vegetables means enjoying summer salads filled with the fruits of your labours. To help decode how you get there, here’s a cheat sheet of when and how to start seeds for the most common edibles inside as bedding plants. Pin it to your fridge or put the dates in your phone; it’s a guide for getting going on a delicious summer harvest. Early March: Tomatoes. Seed your tomatoes about eight weeks before the last frost. Don’t try to get a jump on spring by starting them early. Doing so usually does more harm than good as they tend to get leggy and pale if inside too long. Sow the seeds about three millimetres deep in a moist seedling mix. You won’t need excess light during germination, but as soon as they emerge pour as much light on them as possible. Early April: Broccoli. It’s a good idea to start broccoli from seed at this time to make sure it’s ready for harvest before the first hard frosts of fall. Provide lots of light and keep it inside until the last winter frosts have passed. Mid-April: Cucumber. These veggies are easy to grow indoors. Starting them four to six weeks before May will give a convenient jump start to the season. Plant the seeds about 1.5 centimetres deep in 7.5 cm pots. I recommend planting one or two seeds per pot as they grow quickly. The seeds prefer a temperature of 20 to 25 C, but will germinate, albeit grudgingly, with slightly less. Late April: Zucchini and summer squash. Starting squash from seed is easy. Make sure you have a warm spot (above 20 C if possible) and plant one or two seeds in each 7.5-cm pot. Keep the soil moist and they will germinate in about a week. Give them as much light as possible and they’ll grow quickly. They grow so quickly, in fact, that I wouldn’t recommend starting them indoors before the second week of April. Early May: Lettuce and salad greens. Lettuce germinates easily enough that you can direct-seed it into your containers once the frosts are over. Make sure the soil is nutrient rich and moist and cover the seeds with a light layer of seeding mix. Salad greens love cool temperatures and will germinate best below about 15 C. Transplant them gently outside when the leaves are 7.5 cm high. Mid-May: Carrots and beets. The best way to grow root veggies is to direct-seed them outdoors. You usually do this in mid-May (depending on the weather, of course) once the soil has thawed. Test to see if the soil is warm enough by digging your finger into the first three cm; if it’s chilly to the touch, wait a few days or the seed will have trouble germinating.