Start your plants inside for best outdoor results

Eating nutritious foods is a no-brainer, although it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of this fact once in a while.

Sometimes it’s a challenge to eat as healthy as we want to, due to the amount of chemicals and preservatives added to food we find in grocery stores.

In addition, the vitamin, mineral and protein content of today’s supermarket food is less than what our parents ate. Sometimes by as much as 40 percent.

It’s said that potatoes have lost all their Vitamin A content. And 57 percent of their Vitamin C and iron, and 28 percent of their calcium.

Spinach has lost 45 percent of its Vitamin C content and 17 percent of its Vitamin A content.

Give your plants a great start

One way to combat this problem is to grow our own vegetables and fruits in a backyard garden. Many of you are already doing that.

And while the calendar tells us it’s spring, many areas of the country are continuing to experience pretty chilly temperatures. It might still be a little too early to do any planting… at least outdoors.

That’s why many people choose to start some of their plants indoors in late winter or early spring. Once a seed turns into a seedling, the weather is usually warm enough to replant them outdoors.

And then you’ve got a head start over those who wait until temperatures are warmer to start their plants outdoors.

Not all plants are created equal

Among the other advantages to starting your plants indoors are an earlier harvest and the ability to grow long-season crops in short-season climates.

As with most things, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about doing this. Focusing on the right and avoiding the wrong will give your plants the best chances for successful, both indoors and outdoors.

Below I’ve listed a number of tips to make sure vegetables and fruits have the best chance of producing the greatest yield.

Most seed packets have instructions for starting seeds indoors, as well as germination info, how many days to maturity, etc. Read them carefully because every plant is different.

A dozen tips for indoor planting

  • Choose which plants to start indoors and which to wait on. It’s best to wait on peas, beans, radishes, carrots and corn, for example. They perform best when direct seeded into a garden.
  • Tomatoes, broccoli, kale, okra, eggplants, peppers and others do well when their seeds are planted indoors and seedlings are transplanted later.
  • Use only high-quality seeds. Make sure they are heirloom seeds acquired from a trusted source.
  • Make sure your containers have enough room for your seedlings (including their roots) and sufficient drainage. Drill holes if necessary.
  • Make sure your potting mix provides the nutrients your plants need. Mix in some compost if you want to, but be sure it doesn’t account for more than one-third of the mix/soil.
  • Make sure the potting mix/soil in the container is not packed too tightly. Loose is better for root growth and drainage.
  • If the seed packet does not specify the depth for planting your seeds, a general rule is two to three times the diameter of the seed. Remember to label each plant.
  • Plant more seeds than you will need. Not all of them will germinate, and you can always thin out the extra seedlings later.
  • Water your seeds lightly. A strong flow can negatively affect both the soil and the seeds and seedlings.
  • Check the seed packet for temperature information. Generally speaking, germination temps are 5-10 degrees warmer than growing temps. Overnight, you can place your containers on top of a refrigerator or near a vent (assuming you’re still using your furnace). Once the seedlings are growing, you can move them to a cooler location
  • Seedlings need plenty of light. During the day, place them on a windowsill if possible. Use artificial grow lights at night, placed very close to your containers. In both cases, periodically rotate the containers so that plant growth is even.
  • If you’re not using compost in your soil, add some organic fertilizer after your seedlings are sprouting leaves.

If you want your outdoor garden to look great this summer and provide you with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, start the process indoors.

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