Get This Garden Started! Tips on Indoor Seedlings in the Upper Midwest

Looking to get a head start on your garden this year? In the upper Midwest early spring is the time to start your seeds indoors and to plan your garden so you’ll end up with a healthy transplant and a garden that is successful. Timing, location, soil, and containers are all things you’ll need to understand and chart out. Regardless of whether you are growing vegetables, flowers, or herbs, there are several key factors to keep in mind when starting seeds indoors in our region.

Seed buying tips – READ THE PACKAGE, always review the package for important information about the seeds you have selected. It will guide you on soil types and timing which will help you know when to start your seeds. Remember that in order for your seeds to be viable they really should be used within two years.  Don’t forget to mark the date on any unused seed. Store seed in an airtight container and keep in a cool place. Refrigeration is best if available. To help reduce humidity I you can add packet of silica gel or put a teaspoon of powdered milk in a facial tissue and place this in the container.

When to start your seeds – The growing season in the upper Midwest is shorter due to our cooler climate. To prepare you should start your seeds indoors right around two to three weeks before the last frost. Each plant type varies but look at your projected transplant date and you should start your seeds 6-12 weeks before. Most vegetables and flowers in the upper Midwest region should be started indoors in March or April.

Choosing the right soil – Look for a high-quality potting mix that is specifically designed for seed starting, as this will provide the nutrients and drainage your plants need to grow strong and healthy. Most commercial mixes are composed of peat and vermiculite and are recommended for starting seeds.  These mixes are lightweight, free from weeds, and sterile. When preparing the flats or containers be sure to place them on a tray and fill them with the potting mixture. Water the mix and allow to settle, then repeat by filling and watering again before you plant the seed.

Choosing Containers – Seeds should be in individual or divided containers with just one seedling per container. We don’t recommend filling larger containers and sowing many seeds because of root entanglement which can injure your plant during transplanting. Plastic sheets of small compartments or flats are very common as are individual plastic pots.  Make sure each container has a drainage hole in the bottom.  To avoid disease, we recommend using new containers or that you sterilize any used containers with bleach or other disinfectant for at least 30 minutes and rinse before use.  Clear plastic domes that fit over the flats are a great way to keep moisture and heat in. There are also fiber or organic pots made from things like cow manure, shredded wood or peat. These types of pots break down when planted in the soil and are a good choice for any plant that may not transplant well.

Where to put your seedlings – Indoor location is very important for successful indoor planting. South facing windows are perfect, as much natural light as possible is great, but grow-lights are also a great choice if natural light isn’t an option.  Low traffic areas free of pets are best for the plants if possible. Don’t forget you’ll need some space and likely make a little mess while working with the seedlings indoors so prepare for that in advance of placing your seedlings in their temporary indoor home.  Avoid windowsills, the seedlings thrive on consistent warmer temperatures.

When you are ready it is time to plant!  Be sure to follow the directions on seed packet to determine things like seed depth, spacing, water levels, etc. Monitor your seedlings and adjust your care as needed.  As your seedlings start to grow you may have to help them thrive by providing larger containers for more space.  Be sure to gradually expose your seedlings to the outdoor environment so they can adjust to climate and light changes; this technique is called hardening your seed.

Follow these helpful hints for a successful and enjoyable growing season! Take your gardening to the next level and start a gardening journal to chart and track what you have done that is working and what changes you’d like to make next season. Enjoy your garden and the huge savings that growing your own food can provide.

Looking for a successful growing season?  Visit your garden experts at your favorite employee owned store, Mimbach Fleet Supply. We have a wide range of seeds, tools, planters, and all things garden.  We can’t wait to hear what you’ve got growing!


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