Growing Your Own Vegetables From Seed

By Hedy Koski



Superior Outdoors


Standing in front of the seed rack at the store or scrolling through catalogues online to plan your vegetable garden can lead to some questions. What seeds go straight into the ground outside? And when? And what needs to be started indoors? When do I do that? Most gardeners will tell you trial and error brings experience. I also believe this to be true. But also listening to gardeners with that trial and error experience who are willing to share their knowledge is priceless. Talk to friends and neighbours, or join a group. Most seasoned gardeners love to pass on their knowledge. I have joined the Thunder Bay Horticultural Society—they have expert speakers at their meetings and I always learn something new from them. When choosing your favourite vegetable seeds to plant, read the seed packages, as they have a lot of information on them. They will have planting depth, which is important. For example, if seeds are planted too deep, they will struggle to reach the surface and may never make it, or will be weak and may never fully recover or develop. There will also be information on spacing. I have broken spacing rules many times (I’m trying to be better at it). Root vegetables are smaller or deformed if they are too close together; also, powdery mildew can form on some vegetables if there is no airflow because of overcrowding. Some packets say to plant as soon as the ground can be worked. These are the vegetables that can tolerate a light frost if they emerge—turnips, peas, beets, carrots, parsnips, radishes, spinach, and kale, just to name a few. Some can even handle snow, but keep in mind damage can occur on some plants if that cold is ground-freezing. Other packages say to sow outdoors after all danger of frost is past. If those seedlings were to emerge too early, they wouldn’t be able to handle a light frost. Other frost-sensitive plants like peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, and squash, I recommend starting indoors. They take time to mature, and with our short growing season, we need all the head start we can get. These seed packs will say something like “start indoors 2 to 4 (or 6 to 8) weeks before the last frost.” Oh boy—now, when is the last frost? This is the challenge for all gardeners in the spring. The old saying in this area is “no more frost after the full moon in June.” The full moon in June this year is June 4. That’s super early! But for starting seeds indoors, I will be using the date June 4 and count back, start my seeds, then hope for the best. But watch that weather very closely in June before you put them out. Keep an eye out for my column on frost prevention in the May issue. When first starting, I recommend getting a combination of a direct sow (straight outside) seeds as well as those that need to be started early indoors. Don’t start everything indoors or you will quickly run out of room. Then you’re going to need a heated greenhouse to keep up. (Not a bad thing, but…)