Millions of Americans grow vegetables in home gardens to save money, eat healthy and enjoy the pride that comes from growing a successful garden. You can buy vegetable plants at your local gardening store to start your garden, but growing your garden from seeds is a much less expensive way to grow loads of tasty vegetables. Case in point: you can buy enough seeds to grow 20 heirloom tomato plants for less than half the average price stores charge for one heirloom seedling. If you’re willing to put in a little extra work, you can experience the excitement of seeing your first seedlings emerge from the soil, and save lots of money at the same time.
Of course, when to plant a garden is just as important as how to plant a garden, and planting seedlings is no different. The time it takes for seeds to grow into transplant-ready seedlings varies depending on the type of vegetable you’re planting. Give your seeds enough time to grow into seedlings that will be ready for transplant soon after the predicted last frost date for your area, which is determined by which USDA hardiness zone you live in.
Here are three of the most popular vegetables you can grow from seeds, and when to plant for best results.
Tomatoes are the most popular garden vegetable in the US. It’s easy to see why–hardy and easy to care for, home-grown tomatoes pack much more flavor than any store-bought varieties. To grow tomato seedlings, plant seeds six to eight weeks before the final predicted frost date for your area. Use soil-free potting soil and plant in containers with holes in the bottoms for good drainage. Plant seeds near a sunny window, or use plant lights if a good sunny spot isn’t available. Transplant your seedlings to an area of your garden that receives full sun.
Gardening stores sell onion “sets,” those marble-sized onions you plant in the spring so the onions have enough time to grow to a nice size by harvest time. As with tomatoes, though, it costs much less to skip the onion sets and head for the seed aisle. As a bonus, you can expect larger onions from plants you grew as seedlings, compared with onions you grow from sets. Plant your onion seeds 10 to 12 weeks before the last chance of frost. Plant the seeds 1/4 to 1/2-inch deep, keep the potting soil moist, and keep the plant trimmed to about 4 inches tall prior to transplanting. Onions love the sun, so transplant your seedlings into an area where they will receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
Cucumbers are bushes or vines that produce a versatile veggie that’s good for sandwiches, salads or pickles, depending on the variety of cucumber you choose. You can plant cucumber seeds directly into your garden once the danger of frost has passed, or start seedlings indoors ahead of time for an earlier harvest. To grow cucumber seedlings, plant seeds indoors three to four weeks before the last frost. Sow two or three seeds per container in peat pots or peat pellets. Once your plants have two to four true leaves, they are ready for transplant. Don’t wait too long to transplant, or your cucumbers will not do as well. Cucumbers grow well in areas of full sun or partial shade.
Is it time to harvest them? Click the link to learn more about harvesting summer vegetables.
(photo by ParentingPatch)