With springtime comes the excitement of watching your garden bounce back to life after the cold winter months. Your grass will slowly turn from yellow to green, and your perennials will likely bloom on their own, so spring is a time to focus on your beloved annuals. Whether it's vegetables or flowers, seeding can be a tricky task. Knowing what to seed, what to sow, and when to do either can be overwhelming. Follow our spring seed planting guide to help you grow successful annual gardens this spring:
Seed or Sow?
If plants are ultimately meant to be grown outdoors, then what's the purpose of starting them inside, only to have to transplant them weeks later? It's true, transplanting can be a stress to your plants - if it's not done correctly. And although some crops are better off planted directly into the ground, for many others the benefits of indoor seeding outweighs the trouble of transplanting!
Here in the northern Great Plains, we're used to long winters that sometimes lead into spring snow storms. Due to the risk of frost damage, outdoor seeding anytime before May month is a huge gamble. Starting seeds in a controlled, indoor environment ensure gardeners don't fall behind on the growing season. You can start them weeks, even months before the last predicted frost date, giving you a significant jumpstart.
What to Seed Indoors
If you haven't started planning this year's vegetable garden, it's time to get to it! Many crops are ready for indoor seeding now, or in the coming weeks. Start your heat-loving veggies, like tomatoes and peppers, are best started indoors as early as March, so get those seeds going ASAP. Get ready to seed your cole crops, like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts, as well as any lettuces or salad greens, during the first week of April. Wait until around the third or fourth week of April to seed cucumbers, zucchini, sweet potato, and squash.
For most of us, our gardens involve much more than just vegetables. Some flowering annuals, like petunias, impatiens, and coleus can benefit from starting on a tray indoors. Start them 6-8 weeks before you plan to transplant them.
Here in Bismarck, our last spring frost is expected to be around May 19th this year. After this date has passed, many edibles are safe to transplant into your garden. Others, like tomatoes peppers, cucumber, sweet potato, and squash would prefer to stay inside until early June.
How to Start Seeds for Spring Planting
Unsurprisingly, indoor seeding isn't a one-size-fits-all. The environment you create depends on the germination requirements for whatever plants you're starting. What you can depend on is needing some good planting trays, though. While you can use individual containers, it's much easier and space-efficient to use multi-celled trays. If you don't have any on hand, or you'd like to lessen your environmental impact, you can always start seeds in egg cartons! Most seeds will suffer in overly wet conditions, so regardless of the container you use, make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom.
Start your precious seeds off on the right foot by providing them with a safe and sterile environment. Wash containers well with soap and water before putting anything in them, and only use sterile potting soil. Plant your seeds according to the depth that's indicated in the instructions on the seed packet - some need to be buried deep while others are simply sprinkled on top of the soil!
Once your seeds are sown into the trays, provide them with the appropriate conditions for germination. For many, this means ample sunlight and a warm, humid environment. You can place a clear, plastic dome over the tray to trap in heat and moisture, but be sure to remove it and let them breathe once they finally start poking through. Being so tiny and delicate, it's easy to overwater seeds and drown them. We suggest misting them with a spray bottle instead.
What to Direct Sow
After the risk of frost has passed, the ground should be thawed enough to sow some of our hardier vegetables without worry. Root vegetables, like beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, and onion are better off directly seeded into your garden since they don't transplant very well. If you haven't already started some of your early-season vegetables yet, like lettuce, kale, and beans, you can go ahead and sow them, too!
If you're wondering about your flower beds, now is the time to seed your quick-growing annuals, too. Direct sow sunflowers, marigolds and poppies during late May for a stunning summer display!
How to Direct Sow Seeds Outdoors
Compared to incubating your seeds indoors, direct seeding might seem like a piece of cake! But outside the comforts of your home, your growing plants are exposed to unpredictable elements that can quickly destroy them. Follow seeding calendars and predicted frost dates to figure out the best time for direct sowing. Consider the best placement of your garden on your landscape and take proactive measures against unwanted pests.
When your garden bed is ready and the timing is right, you can finally get down in the dirt and begin outdoor seeding. First, prepare the area by raking the ground and loosening the soil. Add any amendments you might need, like compost or fertilizer, before planting your seeds.
Just like with indoor seeding, different plants have different requirements, so pay attention to the instructions on the seed packet. In general, it's safe to plant a seed or bulb at a depth of three times its size. But some seeds, like lettuce, savory, and many annual flowers need a lot of sun to germinate, so don't cover these guys up with soil. Remember to lightly water or mist the soil after you sow the seeds to help them settle in.
Some plants are naturally finicky when it comes to germination. Their high demands and unpredictable nature makes them hard to start from seed, even for experienced gardeners. To avoid a frustrating or disappointing situation, leave the hard work to us and simply purchase the ones we have success with! Plants we suggest starting from seedlings include asparagus, green onion and herbs such as basil, rosemary, oregano, and mint.
Regardless of what annuals you're planting this year, proper seeding will encourage a rewarding garden with fruitful harvests and bountiful blooms. Drop by our garden center today to pick up your seeds and seedling and get started on this year's garden!