Starting Seeds

Every summer, in my urban garden, I grow a variety of vegetables to supplement what I purchase at my farmer’s market or receive from my CSA. The growing season in Connecticut is much shorter than it is in southern states so I must either start my seeds early or purchase seedlings at the garden center.

Germination times vary by seed type, so the start date for germination is a subtraction exercise based upon the last possible day for frost in your region. The Farmer’s Almanac is a great source of all types of gardening information and content. I always rely upon the Average Frost Date schedule to determine when I should start my seeds. In my Connecticut town, the last frost date is April 23 whereas in my hometown in Maryland, the last frost date is April 13. That’s 10 full days difference.

Every year I plant a variety of lettuce, herbs and two to three vegetables, either cucumber or zucchini and tomatoes. I’ve purchased seedlings, started my vegetables from seeds outdoors and most recently started the seeds indoors; indoors works best for impatient me.

Seed germination time is dependent upon soil temperature; the warmer the temperature the quicker the germination. Here are some examples for germination times.

  • Lettuce – 2 to 12 days
  • Spinach – 5 to 9 days
  • Tomato – 5 to 10 days
  • Cucumber – 7 to 10 days
  • Zucchini – 7 to 14 days

Before I decide which plants to grow this season, I also consider where in my small garden I will plant them. Last year I planted the lettuce and spinach in large urns (a lesson learned from my clever friend Chris in Delaware), the tomato in a large planter and the cucumber and zucchini, right in the middle of my flower garden.

Since April 23 is my last frost date, if I count backwards 14 days, that means I need to start my zucchini seeds on or about April, 9. Everything else can be started at about the same time as they won’t be too large for planting before the last possible frost date.

I’m not one for having a lot of gadgets and contraptions around my house, but for starting seeds, I’ve found the best device is my AeroGarden. In the winter, I can grow herbs and in the spring start my seeds. I received mine as a gift from my friend, Kristin. A grow light and some small planting containers would work well too. Or even a window sill like my grandmother used to do.