Community Container Garden: Ready, Set, Start Those Seeds!

by Fern on March 4, 2011

in Community Garden

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Hopefully you have your seed packets in hand, or will shortly. I’m sure you’re itching to get starting with our community container garden project. I know I am! The first thing to do–obviously–is to get those seeds in some seed starting potting mix and get started!

(If you haven’t purchased your seeds yet, don’t forget that you can get 10% off if you buy them from aHa Modern Living when you use the code LOTBseeds.)

It’s important to start your seeds indoors at the right time, so that they’ll have their best shot when they move outside. To calculate when it is time to sow them, you need to know when you can last expect frost. If you don’t already know, this is a handy list of last frost dates. Once you have that date, look on the seed packet to find out how many weeks before your last frost date you should begin. Simply count backwards from your last frost date that amount, and sow your seeds roughly around that time.

Now, for some of us, our last frost date has already past. If you want, you can try sowing your seeds outdoors. However, I would advise against it. Many seeds need warmth–not just lack of freezing temperatures–to germinate. Even though my area’s last frost technically passed in mid-February, I’m still going to start my seeds indoors and wait to move them outside for at least a month. Larger plants are better able to deal with temperature fluctuations, wind, and even a little insect damage.

Basil: Start your basil indoors 6 weeks before your last frost date. If your last frost date is less than six weeks away, it’s still okay to start them indoors, they are fast growers and will have plenty of time to mature outside. About 4 weeks after you start your first basil seeds, sow a second batch in new pots inside. That way you’ll be able to harvest your first plants and then pop the new plant in their place for a second harvest later in the season.

Chives: Start chives 6 weeks before your last frost. Be sure to cover seeds with about 1/4 of soil, as they need darkness to germinate. Also, chive seeds don’t last very long, so be sure you’re using seeds packed for this year (and not an old packet from last year). If your last frost has already past, consider sowing them directly in their final pot outdoors.

Cucumbers: Start your cukes 4 weeks before your last frost date. Or, if it’s just easier to start all your plants at once, you can start them 6 weeks before your last frost date with all the other plants (except the sunflowers).

Sunflowers: Wait to sow these guys directly in their final destination after your last frost. Don’t start them indoors.

Tomatoes: Start tomato seeds indoors about 6 weeks before your last frost date. For some of you, your last frost date may be less than 6 weeks away. It’s still perfectly cool to start your tomatoes now. Often times it is still pretty chilly outside even after your last frost, and your tomatoes will appreciate the extra time inside.

Need more help getting your seeds started? Ask away in the LOTB Community Forum.

Here are some of the interesting conversations going on in the forum:

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Alyssa March 4, 2011 at 6:58 am

I had read somewhere that cucumbers are “resentful” of being started indoors. Nonetheless I started them indoors last year, they got to be a decent size when I transplanted them. Granted I didn’t harden off (I have 0 access to “outdoors” in my apartment except for open windows and can’t exactly travel to my remote garden every day to harden my plants) but they definitely didn’t do so well. It took over a month for them to recuperate. They flowered, died off, grew back, flowered again and I got like 2 cukes out of half a dozen plants. I was planning on direct sowing them this year once it’s warm enough.


Fern March 4, 2011 at 8:09 am

Hmm. I’ve never had that problem. It will be interesting to see what happens with the cukes now that we’ll have a larger sample size of experience to draw from.

Alyssa March 4, 2011 at 11:12 am

Maybe I will try direct sowing half and starting half inside and see how it goes. :-D

Fern March 4, 2011 at 8:12 pm

That’s a good idea! Definitely share your results!

Mary C. March 4, 2011 at 11:45 am

Yay I’m going to starting my green babies off tomorrow! :)


Fern March 4, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Me too. I haven’t been this excited about starting seeds in a long time. I am really looking forward to sharing our growing experience! :-)

Debbie March 4, 2011 at 5:57 pm

My cumcubers are the first up this year. I’ve been moving my seedlings outdoors for real sunshine during the day, then inside at night for the house warmth. My purple basil is doing great, the chives just popped their heads out this afternoon.
Still need to find the sunflowers and tomatoes, hopefully this weekend.
I’ve started other seedlings along with the 3 of 5 for the project. My tomato seeds put on their true leaves now…Moss Rose and Nasturtium aren’t up yet. Neither are my Jalapeno’s Peppers.

Spring is here in Tx so I can’t wait for the Home and Garden Show next weeked, lots of native plants to check out.


Fern March 4, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Oooh. Let us know if there is anything new and cool at the Home & Garden Show!

How long did it take your cukes to germinate?

Debbie March 4, 2011 at 11:09 pm

it only took about 4 days. The purple basil 5 days and the chives 6 days.


Andrea March 10, 2011 at 1:36 pm

I got the cukes started, and I sowed the chives today. I will wait and direct-sow the sunflowers. As for the basil and tomato, I still haven’t decided whether to get those particular kinds. I have like 3 other tomato varieties and 2 other basils going already. It’s a use thing.


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