If you can take care of a small pet, you can grow your own starter plants for next spring’s garden. It's a bit more work than a cactus, but not as involved as a dog—let’s say around hamster level.
Your seedlings will need a nice warm place to grow, a regular supply of water, some good soil and appropriate artificial lighting (yes, this is necessary in Minnesota). If you can provide these things and a few minutes to check on them every day, you've totally got this!
Start EASY. That means just try a few varieties of your favorite veggies, herbs or flowers. How about 3-4 tomatoes, 2 peppers, some basil and arugula (or a similarly approachable goal)? If you start small, your success rate will be higher and then you can move forward to next year with confidence. Adding a little at a time is what helps make gardening such a beautiful, lifetime passion.
SEEDS: Do a bit of research when selecting varieties. Be sure they will actually finish in our climate. Yes, our growing season is lengthening, but we are still a relatively short season location.
SOIL: Germination mix is fine textured and drains well compared to regular potting soil. It’s worth buying a bag, and will be labeled Seed Starting mix.
HEAT: Your babies will grow just fine at room temperature, but need temperatures close to 80 in order for the seeds to germinate, or pop out of their hard covering. Warm weather crops like peppers, eggplants and tomatoes will germinate so much better if you can provide a spot where you can maintain a soil temperature in the upper 70s until they emerge. Cool weather crops like lettuce and greens would appreciate lower 70s if you can swing it. If you cannot find a warm location where you live, (think on top of the fridge, near a radiator or heating vent, etc.), check out our selection of waterproof seedling heating mats.
LIGHT: This one is a biggie and you can’t fake it. That Minnesota late winter light coming in through your windows is not enough. The angle is too low and the light isn’t strong enough. You need some grow lights. Yes, you really do.
CONTAINERS: Lots of creative options here, yogurt containers or small used (clean) plant pots. A hole in the bottom thorough which water can drain is about the only requirement. A big tray to keep your little pots on, like an old cookie sheet, catches the water that drains through. There are also many convenient trays and pots that are sold specifically for seed starting, many of which are compostable and can be planted directly in the ground.
TIMING: You don’t plant your entire garden on the same day, so grow your transplants to be ready when the weather outside is ready for them. Make yourself a calendar with desired dates for getting them in the garden, then count backwards to obtain seeding dates. Aim for late April with the lettuce and greens, so start them in mid to late March. Your tomatoes and peppers need the warm weather to be settled and the soil heated up a bit, so schedule them to be ready mid to late May. This equals a start time of mid march for peppers and early April for tomatoes.
Don’t forget to allow several days for them to harden off-–get used to outside conditions--before you actually put them in the ground.
Questions? We have experienced crews at both stores to answer your questions and show you the seeds and supplies.