How To Start Seeds Early
Why wait for the warmer days of spring? You can start off many vegetables today to enjoy a super-early start to your growing season. Here’s how!
Onions, cauliflowers and radishes are just some of the vegetables that can be started early, using techniques such as direct sowing with protection and indoor sowing under grow lights.
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5 Ways to Start Seeds Earlier
1. Sow direct under protection
Really hardy vegetables such as winter lettuces and arugula can be sown under cold frames or mini hoop tunnels. Cover the soil surface for at least one week before sowing to help warm up and dry out the soil.
2. Make your own mini greenhouses
Cut a bottle open two-thirds from the bottom leaving a ‘hinge’ of plastic at the back. Poke drainage holes into the base.
Fill with potting soil and sow your winter-hardy seeds. Cover with potting soil and water. Seal the lid shut using heavy-duty tape. Label it and place outside. When the seedlings push against the lid in spring it’s time to open them up.
Suitable seeds for sowing this way include winter-hardy salads such as endive and winter lettuce.
3. Sow in a greenhouse or tunnel
Hardy vegetables such as chard and spinach can be sown into seed flats or pots in a greenhouse or hoop house. They’ll be ready to transplant outdoors in a couple of months.
You can also use the greenhouse border for staples such as beets, carrots, radish and cold-tolerant salads such as winter lettuce or endive.
4. Sow indoors
Some crops such as cauliflower and cabbage need to be started on an indoor windowsill or under grow lights if they are to germinate early.
Heat loving crops such as peppers and eggplants are best started off in propagators or under grow lights.
5. Early onions and shallots
Plant one onion or shallot set (small bulb) per three-inch pot, leaving just the tip showing. Alternatively, plant three or four sets to a larger container.
Keep pots indoors on a bright windowsill, or inside a greenhouse or cold frame. If you are growing in a milder climate you can place pots outside right away. Protect them from chilly winds using clear plastic sleeves cut from recycled bottles.
Now see our tips on 5 super-early vegetables to start in late winter!