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How to Grow Vegetables from Seeds

 

By Don Logan, Horticulturist, EdenBrothers.Com

 
 
Planting a vegetable garden is an age-old tradition that in recent years has become more popular than ever. Growing one’s own food can be a tremendously pleasurable and rewarding endeavor, but like any gardening project, a few basic ground rules are required to achieve desired results.  
 
 
The Big Question: Indoors or Outdoors?
 
 
Unlike some other more finicky types of seeds, vegetable seeds tend to be a pretty versatile lot, and can usually be successfully planted either indoors or out. For those with limited space or resources, indoor planting is usually the way to go, whilst those fortunate enough to possess a patch of god’s green earth can sow the seeds directly into the soil. In either case, the process is a lot more cut-and-dry than you may think, and it’s also a lot of fun!  

 

1- Planting Vegetable Seeds Indoors or "Seed Starting":

The process of sowing vegetable seeds indoors is called “seed starting”. To begin with, use a shallow pot with holes in the bottom for drainage. Fill the pot with rich potting soil, and water generously. It’s important not to drown the soil, but rather add just enough water to make it moist. Once the soil is properly prepared, simply press your vegetable seeds into place using the depth chart at the bottom of this page as a guide.  

 
Next, as the days pass, watch for germination. The first thing you’re likely to see is what will appear to be a set of small leaves. Continue to water regularly so that the soil and seed mixture stay evenly moist as your plants begin to grow. It’s also a good idea to feed your plants a good water soluble fertilizer every week or so to stimulate growth.
 
After your seedlings have sprouted, you may wish to transplant them to individual pots to prevent overcrowding and/or prepare them for eventual transplanting outdoors. This is accomplished by simply watering the seedlings just prior to removal and gently lifting them out with a spoon or small trowel.  Set the seedlings into their new pots, carefully firming the soil around the roots. As usual, continue to water lightly and fertilize as necessary.
 
If you choose to transplant your fledgling plants to an outdoor vegetable garden, be sure to wait until any danger of frost has passed.  It’s also recommended that you transplant on a mild and overcast day – or even at night - so as not to “shock” the previously pampered house plants.  Just prior to transplanting, water the plants to loosen the soil and then simply tap them out of their pots. Then remove the plant and soil and place it in a previously dug hole, making sure that it is level to the ground.
 
 

2- Planting Vegetable Seeds Outdoors or "Direct Sowing":

Unless you live in an area where summers are really short, you're better off sowing some types of vegetable seeds directly in a garden. Large-seeded, fast-growing vegetables, such as corn, melons, squash, beans, and peas, usually languish if they're grown in containers for even a day or two too long.

 
Before direct sowing, make sure that the soil has dried out sufficiently before you work it, and be sure that the soil is warm enough for the seeds that you want to plant. If your soil temperature is much below 65°F (18°C), the seeds are likely to rot in the ground before they sprout. The best way to determine the temperature of your soil is to use a soil thermometer, which you can buy at any garden store.
 
You can plant your vegetable seeds in a variety of patterns; though the most common method is row planting. If you have a large area or allotment, you’ll probably find this method the easiest. However, don’t fret if space is at a premium; even if you’re dealing with a just a few square feet, you can still plant in rows.
 
Mark the placement of a row within your garden, and then make a furrow at the correct depth along the row. Some seeds may not sprout, so sow seeds more thickly than you want the final spacing of the crops to be. Thinning rows is less of a chore if you space seeds as evenly as possible. Cover the seeds with fine soil and then firm them in with the back of a hoe to make sure that all the seeds are in contact with the soil. Once your vegetable seeds are sown, make sure to water regularly until they sprout.
 
Soon after seedlings grow their second set of true leaves, you may want to thin them out to avoid overcrowding. When you thin plants, either discard the extra seedlings or move them to another part of your garden. Newly transplanted seedlings need extra attention until they get established.
 
Voila – you’ve done it! Now it’s time kick back and watch Mother Nature do her thing. If you get impatient – or hungry – while waiting for your fresh veggies to grow, please refer to the chart below for approximate harvest times.
 

Vegetable Seeds - Quick Planting Guide Quick general guide to help you determine spacing, planting depth, planting time, harvesting time, etc.

Vegetable Indoor Sowing Outdoor Sowing Plants Spacing Thin to Rows Spacing Seed Planting Depth Mini Soil Temp °F Hardiness (see below)* Amount Seed Need / Acre Time to Maturity / Harvest Notes
Artichoke 8-10 Weeks before Last Frost Spring 2-3 Ft. no 5-6 Ft. 1" 60 Semi-Hardy   100-150 Days Like well-drained fertile soil. If the soil is too light, add rich organic material. In cold climates, treat as annual.
Asparagus 8 Weeks before last frost. Early Spring 1" 18" 3 – 4 Ft. 1-2"   Semi-Hardy 3 Lbs. 3rd Year; Yearly thereafter Perennial. Do not harvest the first 2 years to allow plant to establish itself. Apply a heavy mulch in winter
Beets no April to Mid August 1" 2-3" 12-18" 1" 40 Hardy 12-16 Lbs. 50 – 70 Days Up to 1/3 of the plant foliage can be harvested for greens. Dig and store in cool place prior to first freeze. Days to maturity may increase with late plantings.
Broccoli no April to Mid June 1" 18-24" 24-30" ½-1" 50 Semi-Hardy 1 Lb. 60 - 80 Days Harvest before flower buds start to open. Beware of pests for late Plantings.
Brussels Sprouts no Late June 1" 18-24" 24-30" ¼" 50 Hardy 1 Lb. 90 Days Best when harvested small ( 1-2” diameter).
Cabbage Feb-March, Into garden in May April to June 1" 18-24" 24-30" ½" 40 Semi-Hardy 1 Lb. 65 - 80 Days PH Soil should be 5.5 or higher. Beware of pests for late Plantings.
Carrots no Mid - April to May & July ½" 1-2" 16-24" ½" 40 Hardy 4 Lbs. 70 - 90 Days Sow early, best when harvested young. May have several sequential plantings.
Cauliflower Jan.-Feb. Into garden in May Mid-April to Mid-June 1" 30" 24-36" ½" 40 Semi-Hardy 1 Lb. 120 - 150 Days Won't tolerate high temperatures, harvest before the head opens up. Sow seeds for a second crop in May.
Celery March-April After last Frost 8" no 2-3 Ft. 1/8" 40 Tender 10-12 Oz. 120 - 140 Days Celery requires a longer growing season, lots of water, and prefers cooler temperatures. Without proper care & conditions, Celery stalks can be very dry and stringy.
Corn no May - Successive Planting every 2 weeks 3" 1 Ft. 3 Ft. 1" 50 Tender 15-18 Lbs. 60 - 100 Days Should be planted closely together in blocks rather than rows to insure good pollination.
Cress Year-round Early spring - Late Summer ½" 1-2" 18-24" ¼" 50 Semi-Hardy 4 Lbs. 20 - 50 Days Sow every 10 days for continuous harvest through midsummer & in late summer for autumn & winter harvest.
Cucumber no May - June 2" 4" 3-4 Ft. 1" 60 Very Tender 3 Lbs. 2-3 Months Spread a mulch of black plastic to the area before the vines begin to spread. Prompt harvesting will prolong the fruiting period.
Eggplant Feb.-March Into garden in May 2 weeks after last frost 20-30" no 30-36" ¼" 60 Very Tender 6-10 Oz 4-5+ Months Use bedding plants in short season areas, Needs excellent drainge and warm soil.
Endive   April - July 1" 8" 18-24" ¼"   Hardy 4Lbs. 90-100 Days Like cool weather & lots of moisture, in rich, well drained soil. Provide an even amount of moisture and fertilizer. Liquid fertilizer works well.
Gourd no Last Frost 6 Ft/ Hill 2-3 Ft. Hill 6-10 Ft./ Hill ½" 60 Tender   90-130 Days Gourds have a long growing season so you will want to get them started as early as possible.
Kale no Can be planted before last frost date 1" 12" 2-3 Ft. ½" 50 Very Hardy 1Lb. 55-60 Days Prefers cool weather and can withstand light frosts. For fall harvest, sow seeds in July.
Kohlrabi   Can be planted before last frost date 1" 24" 24" ¼" 50 Semi-Hardy 4 Lbs. 45-55 Days Prefers cool weather. If the weather allows, you can get a spring & a fall crop. Most growth will occur in cool weather.
Leek 10-12 Weeks before last Frost After Last Frost 4-8" no 2 Ft. ½" 50 Semi-Hardy 5 Lbs.   Start Indoors. Add plenty of compost and manure to soil. To encourage long, thin stems, plant leeks closer together; for thicker stems, set them farther apart.
Lettuce Feb.-March Into garden early April April-August 1/3" 1 Ft. 12-18" ¼" 35 Hardy 5-6 Lbs. (leaf) / 2-3 Lbs. (head) 70-90 Days Grows best in the cool temperatures of spring and fall. Needs very rich soil and lots of moisture. Plant successive crops every two weeks til the end of April.
Melon 3-4 Weeks before Last Frost After last Frost 8-10 seeds/3" apart in hill 2 plants/ hill 5-6 Ft. ½" 60 Very Tender 4-5 Lbs. 75-90 Days Start indoors in colder regions, then transplant once all danger of frost has past. Make sure Melons get ample soil moisture and nutrients.
Okra no 2 weeks after last frost 12" no 3-4 Ft ¾" 60 Very Tender 6-7 Lbs. 50-75 Days Harvest when young (2"-3")
Harvest often to encourage production
Choose fast maturing varieties
Onions February April 3" no 12-18" ½" 40 Semi-Hardy 5 Lbs. 3-4 Months Plant as early as possible. Apply a fertilizer high in phosphorus and potash. Onion sets may also be grown in planters.
Peas no April Successive plantings every 2 weeks 1-2" no 3-5" 2" 40 Semi-Hardy 150-175 Lbs (dwarf) / 110-130 Lbs. (tall) 60 Days Do best in cool temperatures, so plant early and harvest when the peas are young.
Peppers Feb.-March Into garden in May May 12-18" no 24" ½" 60 Very Tender 5-7 Oz. 4-5 Months Do not provide too much nitrogen or you'll have lots of plant, little fruit. A black plastic mulch will warm the soil and promote good growth.
Pumpkins no May 5"-7"/Hill 3"/Hill 36" 3-4" 60 Tender 5-6 Lbs. 4-5 Months Pumpkins take up a lot of room, so sometimes it is better to plant them outside of the garden. Will tolerate a small amount of shade.
Radishes Feb.-March Into garden early April April 1-3"   18-24" ½" 40 Hardy 10-12 Lbs. 30 Days Plant radishes early. They will go to flower when the warm temperatures arrive.
Rutabaga no April- July 3-4" 9" 18" ¾" 40 Hardy 3 Lbs. 80-100 Days Water well. If rutabagas don't get enough water they will be woody and won't taste as good.
Spinach no April 6"   12-18" ½" 35 Very Hardy / New Zealand: Tender 11-13 Lbs. 90 Days Soil pH should be between 6.0 and 6.7 Apply nitrate of soda between the rows to stimulate growth. Harvest spinach when young or the plants will go to seed.
Squash / Zucchini no April-July 36"   36" 1" 60 Summer: Tender / Winter: Very Tender 5-6 Lbs. 4-5 Months Grows well in warm areas, prefers rich organic soil.
Tomatos March May 30-36"   30-36" ½" 50 Tender 6-8 Oz. 4-5 Months Provide frost protection when first planted. Tomato plants may be trained on stakes, grown in cages, or allowed to crawl along the ground. Tomatoes will ripen after they have been picked.
Watermelons no May 72"   72" 1" 60 Very Tender 5-7 Lbs. 4-5 Months Do best in sandy soil with plenty of added manure. Top dress with high nitrogen/potash fertilizer. Needs warm temperatures to mature.
 
*Hardiness:
 
Very Tender: Will not survive the frost. Can be damaged by temperatures below 40
 
Tender: Will not survive the frost.
 
Semi-Hardy: Will survive light frosts
 
Hardy: Survive frosts up to the low 20's
 
Very Hardy: Will overwinter if protected
 
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