In Cool Season Gardener, Bill Thorness explains how to extend the harvest, pant ahead, and grow vegetables year round; even in your winter garden!
Bill's first gardening motto is that he does not believe in the traditional four seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. For a cool season gardener one has seven planting seasons. Early spring, mid-spring, late spring, summer, early fall, late fall, and winter. By starting seeds indoors and using garden covers one can utilize each of the seven seasons and have a garden that is producing produce every day of the year.
Planning ahead and growing seeds indoors is the first step to a successful year round vegetable garden. With a little timing, a garden plan/rotation layout, and a few tools you can start all your garden's vegetables indoors and have them planted in your beds the minute space is available or the soil temperature is right. Below are the steps you should take when growing seeds indoors.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- Warm basement or utility room
- Electric heating mat
- Seed trays
- Grow lights
- Seed starting soil
- Seed starting requires strict weather observation; if your vegetable variety can't survive a frost, you'll want to time the seed starting process so that they are ready to be transplanted after your regions final frost date. Every seed is different so check the seed packet for directions on when to time growing seeds indoors.
- To trigger germination, the seed starting soil needs to be warm enough. Using a heat mat under your seed trays to bring the soil to the correct temperature and guarantee sprouting and a strong start.
GROWING AND CARING FOR THE SEEDS
- Once the seeds sprout a grow light should be hung low over the plants and remain on around 14 to 16 hours every day.
- At this stage of growing, the seeds water is very important to monitor. The heat from the grow lights can suck the moisture from the soil quickly. A cover over seed trays can promote humidity and retain moisture in the soil.
- Once the seeds have sprouted, grow lights have been applied, and daily watering occurs, the electric heating mat can be removed.
Excerpted from Cool Season Gardener:
"Often, early-spring crops start life in a seedbed for two to three weeks. After that, I pot them up into 4-inch pots and let them develop their roots for another two to three weeks before beginning the process of getting them into the ground. Although you may be ready to get all these plants out of your house after five to six weeks, it’s important to introduce them slowly to the outdoors. You can’t just march outside one sunny day, pot in hand, and plop the indoor-grown seedling into the ground. It needs to be acclimated to the weather conditions it will find in the garden. The crucial step before transplanting is called “hardening” (or sometimes “hardening off”).
A temporary covering is just one way to help get your plant growing well once it’s transplanted into its final home. Whether early-spring planting helps get a jump on summer, or early-fall planting extends the growing season through autumn, you are putting those plants into a more stressful situation than they’d have in the reliable summer weather.
Planting seeds indoors is one of the many ways you can extend the harvest and enable yourself to have a spring, summer, fall AND winter garden.
If you're interested in more pointers on helping out the germination process, want to know which vegetables to pick when planting seeds indoors so your winter vegetable garden is a success, tips on planting rotation, building covers and more, then Bill Thorness new book, Cool Season Gardener, will serve as an excellent guide for extending the harvest and growing delicious vegetables all year round.