We are blessed with four beautiful seasons in Minnesota, though many would argue that we only have two: winter and road construction and that neither of those are beautiful. And I will agree, of the four, winter is my least favorite. I mean, I love the beauty of the first snow fall, the way it perfectly coats the trees, and there’s nothing better than a cozy white Christmas, but come December 26th, I am about ready for old man winter to pack his bags. To me, the real beauty of winter is that it allows for new beginnings and quiet possibly my favorite of seasons; spring! But then, maybe spring is my favorite because it leads to summer- yeah I think summer is the favorite. They all just have so many wonderful things to offer! For your enjoyment, if I had to rank them my ranking would go: 1. Summer 2. Spring 3. Fall 4. Winter. (Fall only lands in that pecking order because it leads to my least favorite- winter, but boy is fall a beautiful, colorful time! And I can guarantee you my husbands favorite season. *Ahem* Hunting Season.)
But here we are, approaching spring in Minnesota. Our weather is so unpredictable, especially this time of year. Just a few weeks ago we had 60 degree weather… in February (unheard of!), followed by temps in the 20’s! And this past week, we had a tornado and thunderstorms followed by snow the next morning! But none the less, spring will be here very soon, the ground will thaw and the waters will open. Tree buds will grow, grass will sprout. Flowers will bloom. And… Crops will be planted!
This year I have a variety of vegetables, herbs, and fruit that I will be planting, and many I will start from seeds. In Minnesota, the general rule of thumb is to wait until after Memorial Day to plant outside to make sure you are clear of any frost. If your seeds need to be started indoors due to our short growing season, most will take 8-10 weeks before they are ready to go in the ground, so start with your expected plant date and work backwards to see when to start your seeds indoors!
What does starting seeds indoors look like? It’s truly not that hard! In fact, you can almost plant them and walk away, aside from watering to keep the soil moist. But here are the steps we take in our home to start seeds indoors:
1. First plan, then purchase supplies. Start by picking out which crops you want to grow, and selecting those seeds (it is best to start small when first starting out, which can be hard to do!). How much you are going to plant will determine how many containers and space you need.
2. Containers. Decide how you would like to plant them, either in containers (plastic, peat pots, or even as simple as plastic cups!), or you can use the trays with the soil pellets. This year we are experimenting with peat pots and the soil pellets. We have never used the pellet soil before but figured it would be fun to compare how things grow in each! If you are using some sort of containers, you will need to pick up seed starting soil as well. This is relatively inexpensive- I believe we paid about $5 for our bag of organic seed starter, and we only used about half.
3. Light source. You may want to purchase a light to keep over the plants. This will help to keep them warm as well as help them grow hardy. If you have a light source that is too far away, the plants will grow very tall and lanky instead. A sunny south facing window may also do the trick (which is what we are using this year).
4. Plant them! The back of your seed packet should tell you just how deep to plant them, and how many seeds in each space. Make sure to label what is what clearly. Get your soil moist first and then plant away!
**I highly recommend keeping your seed packets as well, so that you have the directions when it comes time to plant outside.
5. Cover Them. (most trays will come with a clear plastic cover) This helps to keep them warm and keep moisture in during the germination phase.You also want to make sure they are stored somewhere that is room temperature. Generally about 60-70 degrees is good
6. Water, Water, Water! I recommend using a spray bottle to mist them until you have a decent sized sprout coming up. If you just pour water on, you risk uncovering the seeds. I check and mist my seeds morning and night to make sure they are staying moist.
7. Remove the Cover. Once you have sprouts that are nearing the cover, you can remove it. You can also start to water by pouring (instead of misting) if you’d like. Again, the plants will still want to be in 60-70 degree “house” temperature, and have a good light source to help them grow hardy.
8. Hardening Off. When it is time to plant you will want to let your now seedlings sit outside during the day time (bringing them in at night) for a few days to a week to acclimate them to the outdoors, this is called hardening off. You are virtually “toughing up” your seedlings! Place them in a partially shaded area, protected from wind.
9. Time to plant in the ground! Hopefully you saved your instructions so you know proper spacing and depth of planting.
10. Water, Tend, Harvest… EAT! Make sure to keep your soil and plants well hydrated. You can add organic fertilizers to them throughout the season (compost or chicken poop is a great option for this!) Enjoy watching them grow and then enjoy the fruits of your labor! What a great feeling it is to grow your own food!
Want to know what we are planting? Here’s what our shopping cart looked like:
– A variety of organic seeds: watermelon, snap peas, green beans, onion, mixture of sweet peppers, habanero peppers, jalapeño peppers, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash (zucchini), lettuce, lavender, thyme, oregano, lemon balm, calendula, parsley, and garlic.
– Organic seed starter potting soil
– Peat pots and a plastic tray with lid to set them on (peat pots are biodegradable and can be transplanted directly to the ground outside)
– Pellet seed starter green house.
I had so much fun planning and planting these seeds with my husband and daughter (who is almost 2). I appreciate my dad teaching my about gardening and it is so special to be able to include my daughter in our garden and growing of our own food! I only hope she comes to love and appreciate it as well!
Here’s to living a life that makes your soul smile,