Gardening Tips


Starting Seeds Indoors

It’s not too late to start your favorite vegetables from seed. Some seeds that are reality easy to grow from seed indoors include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and squash. By starting you own vegetables you have a much wider choice of cultivars. If you start now you will have plants ready to set out in your garden in six to eight weeks from now. Just the right time for them to go into the ground without having to protect them from the cold nights. In the Willamette Valley it is warm enough by the first week of June for plants to not need night protection.

Getting Started

 Select a place where you can keep your seeds until the sprout and preferably stay until they are ready to be transplanted into larger containers. You will need seed-starting containers, seed starting mix, labels, marking pen and seeds. The best way to start if you are new at this is to purchase a seed-starting system from a garden center. These have everything you will need to be successful – planting cells, watering system, and a plastic lid. Containers or cells need to hold one or two inches of starting medium and have holes in the bottom for drainage. When seedlings have grown their second set of leaves, they will need to be transplanted into individual plastic containers.  Three or four inch square pots are best because they take up less space and allow space for the plants to develop a good root system. These can be used year after year. You can also purchase peat pots. These can go directly into the ground with the plant when you transplant. With these there is no need to transplant seedlings into larger pots as long as you purchase three or four inch peat or core fiber pots.


Seeds To Start Indoors Now

Corn – early April                             Tomatoes – Late March, early April

Cucumbers – April                           Squash – early April

Melons – April

Direct Seed in Garden in April

Beets                                                    Kale

Carrots                                                 Spinach

First Planting Already Direct Seeded

Lettuce                                                 Potatoes

Onions                                                  Radishes

Peas                                                      Swish Chard


Sowing Seeds

Set the pots inside a tray so that you can water your seedlings from the bottom (by adding water to the tray). To sow the seeds, fill pots or cells with moist seed-starting medium. Press medium into the pots or cells so it is firm. Use your finger to make a slight depression in the center of the post or cells. Place one seed into the depressions. If you are using pots you can place two or three seeds about 1/2 inch apart. (At the time of transplanting into the garden keep only the strongest plant. Remove the others by cutting them off at ground level). Label each row or pot to identify the variety planted. Once all rows or pots are planted, gently scatter more of the seed-starting medium to cover the seeds (unless the packet specifies leaving seeds uncovered). Water the surface with a gentle mist and cover the flat with a plastic dome or sheet of clear plastic to maintain moisture. As soon as seeds sprout and have one set of leaves remove the plastic dome or plastic. Do not let the soil dry out. Water trays by placing them in a container with about one inch of water and leave until the soil is damp when touched.

Some seeds germinate best in cool soil, and others in warm; check the seed packet for temperature requirements. If the seeds demand warmth, place the flat near a heat vent or on an electric heat mat to warm the soil. Watch daily for emerging seedlings, and as soon as they appear, remove the plastic cover and move the flat to a sunny window or grow lights. At this point, many types of seedlings prefer cool growing temperatures around 65ºF.

Transplanting Seedlings

When seedlings have grown their second set of leaves, they are ready to be transplanted to individual containers. Use a good commercial potting soil which can be purchased at garden stores. Use a chopstick to lift and loosen the soil beneath the seedling. Gently tug the seedlings by their leaves instead of their stems, which can be easily damaged. Don’t worry if some roots are torn in the process or if most of the potting medium falls away from the roots. Add some potting mix to the bottom of a container, center the seedling in the pot, then add more potting soil to fill the pot. Press lightly to firm the soil around the roots. (This step is for seeds started in cells. Skip this step if you use peat or core pots. At this point you will need to fertilize the plants.) Continue watering pots from the bottom as described above.

Seedlings grown in a mix that includes compost probably won’t require fertilizer. In compost-free mixes, feed the seedlings lightly every two or three weeks after moving them to individual pots. Use liquid kelp and fish emulsion, mixed at half the recommended rate.

Starting about two weeks before you plan to transplant the seedlings into the garden, move them to a sheltered spot outdoors for a few hours at a time. Be careful not to put them in direct sunlight right away. Gradually increase their time outdoors and light exposure. This process, called hardening off, allows the seedlings to adjust gradually to outdoor conditions such as wind and sun.