18 May 2020

How to start a vegetable garden indoors

With social distancing in effect I wanted to avoid going to stores as much as possible this Spring, but I was also really bored and needed a hobby to keep me busy. I thought starting a vegetable garden would be a really fun and rewarding way to spending my quarantine. Last year I had a few vegetables growing in pots outdoors, but I didn’t have great luck with them. Early on a chipmunk ate my entire cucumber plant, and my tomato and pepper plants were so behind I barely got any fruit. This year, I started early and started everything from seed, indoors, so I could really feel like I was achieving something. Now, if an animals eats my damn garden the second I plant it outside I might have a meltdown after all of the love that has gone into these plants.

To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure how it was going to turn out when I began, but as of now my plants are thriving and I have definitely learned a lot about how to successfully start a garden indoors; including what you actually need, what’s a waste of money and how to save time and get those seeds to sprout as soon as possible! So many have you been following my gardening journey on Instagram, and have shown so much interest that I thought I’d share with your exactly what I did to start this garden indoors.

To start your garden, you’ll need:
  • Seeds of your choice (I used heirloom tomatoes, mini cucumbers, green beans, hot and sweet peppers, onion and cherry tomatoes)
  • 3 or 4-inch peat pots (I love the Jiffy Pot brand)
  • Organic triple mix (I prefer the Pro-mix brand)
  • A seedling heat mat (I got mine off Amazon)
  • A south-facing window or very sunny room in your house! I used my kitchen table/bench.
I started my garden very early this year. Last year I started it quite late and didn’t get any tomatoes or peppers until the last week of September. I want my veggies to be ready earlier this year, so I started my seeds the first week of April, one month earlier than last year! 

To start I planted one vegetable at a time, and followed the instructions on each seed packet. If there is one thing I have learned in life, it’s that instructions exist for a reason, so follow them! The instructions on the seed packets will tell you how deep to sow each seed, how far apart to place them, and how long it might take before you see a sprout. That being said, depending on your environment your sprouting time could be shorter or longer; for example I started some peppers in a greenhouse on a heat mat and they sprouted in a week, whereas the ones I started in one-inch peat pots took three weeks to sprout!

A few things I learned along the way this year:

1. Don’t add water to the pot before a seed has sprouted. Put water in the base of the tray and let the soil soak up water on its own. If you add too much water to the top of the pot, you’ll push the seeds too far down. Another way to keep soil moist is to mist it, but keep in mind that only wets the top of the soil, you want to make sure the whole thing is moist to encourage the seed to sprout.

2. Don’t overwater your plants once they have sprouted. I watered my plants every day until they got to a certain size, and then I noticed they stopped needing as much water and I switched to every other day. You can tell when your plants need water because they start to drop and look “thirsty.”

3. Start your plants in 3 or 4 inch peat pots. Don’t waste your time with the one-inch pots, you have to move your plants too quickly and really you want to eliminate moving them as much as possible. If you start them in the 3 or 4 inch peat pots, you can actually just plant that at the end of may in your outdoor garden, and your plant will suffer less root shock.

4. Give your plants as much sunlight as possible! We are very fortunate in that our back window is south facing and gets all-day sunlight. My kitchen table has been an amazing spot for all of my plant babies to grow! If you don’t have enough sunlight, move your plants around through the day so they get enough. Your plants will grow taller and taller searching for the light they need, but they won’t grow any fruit if they don’t get sufficient sunlight!

5. Use jiffy greenhouses (see image below) and a seedling heat mat to speed up sprouting. Jiffy greenhouses are “self watering” in that they trap moisture within the container. If you place them on a heat mat, you create an even more warm and moist environment for your seedlings, which can speed up germination. I used these for some pepper seeds because after 3 weeks my peppers in peat pots hadn’t sprouted yet. Turns out peppers need A LOT of moisture and warmth, because after moving them to the seedling mat they all sprouted, and the ones in the greenhouse sprouted in just a few days!

Now, keep in mind this is only my first year attempting a full garden, so I definitely don’t consider myself a pro. But, I’ve learned a lot this year, and feel really proud of these little plants I have grown. If you have any questions about your garden, or need some motivation, you know how to reach me!!


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