Get a Head Start on Early Spring Veggies
It’s time to sow onions, leeks, celery and peppers
If you want to grow your own vegetable-garden transplants, now is the time to sow seeds of onions, leeks, celery, parsley and peppers in a small greenhouse or a sunny windowsill. Seeds of peppers and parsley take at least two weeks to germinate, thus requiring a head start. Seedlings of leeks, onions and celery grow slowly and need a long starting period before they are tall enough to be transplanted in the garden.
For sowing seeds of celery, peppers and parsley, use a four-inch plastic pot filled with a commercial rooting medium such as Pro-Mix or Metro-Mix. These generally sterile rooting media are free of weed seeds. They also retain water and drain well. Make sure that the four-inch pot you have selected has at least four drainage holes either on the bottom or on the side of the bottom. Fill the pots to within a half-inch from the edge. Scatter 20 to 25 seeds over the surface of the rooting medium and cover the seeds, except celery, with a light dusting of rooting medium. Soak the soil with a fine mist to prevent the seeds from floating until you see excess water drain through the bottom of the pot.
Seeds of onions and leeks are best sown in a quart-size container filled with the same rooting medium. Since these will be growing in this container until they are transplanted in the garden, sow less than 50 onion or leek seeds scattered over the surface of the growing medium. Press these seeds into the surface of the soil with your hand and cover with a light dusting of rooting medium. Water carefully with a fine spray until you see water flowing from the bottom of the containers.
Onion and leek seeds should germinate in about seven days if kept at room temperature. Place a piece of clear polyethylene over the pot to help keep the surface moist and improve germination. As soon as most of the seeds have germinated, place the pot(s) on or near a windowsill facing south for maximum sunlight.
Since seeds of peppers and parsley require warm temperatures to germinate, enclose the container in a plastic bag, then place the bagged container on the furnace, where seeds will receive continuous warm temperatures. To make sure the seedlings get sufficient light, start checking the containers 10 days after seeding for signs of germination. As soon as you see one seedling emerge, remove the plastic bag and place the container on a windowsill facing south to receive direct sunlight.
After your vegetable seeds germinate, wait four weeks, then begin adding a water-soluble fertilizer at one-half concentration. When the weather warms past danger of frost, you’ll have a nursery of transplants to nurture in your garden.