Start your gardening season early

First fruit of an tomato plant started indoorsCredit: Photo by Jane Gates

Whether you live where winters are mild or you have been waiting through months of frigid temperatures, spring will eventually arrive. And if you are a gardener, impatient to start the growing season with vegetables and fruits to flavor your kitchen, you can get a jump on the spring season by starting starting vegetable seeds indoors.

Not only is seed starting indoors a fun project, but it is the best way to grow plants that have a long season before maturity. By starting seeds indoors for spring -- anytime from late February onward, depending on your climate – you can have sturdy little plants ready to set out as soon as the soil is warm enough. Buying fruits and vegetables as started plants will also allow you to grow those longer season plants, but your choice in variety will be more limited to whatever is being offered at your garden centers. Buying and planting seed allows you a wide choice of cultivars so you can grow your favorites and try some of the more unusual, harder-to-find edible varieties. You can germinate them in a bright window indoors or, if you have one, start them out in a conservatory or greenhouse.

If you live in a warm-winter climate where there are no heavy frosts, you can start your vegetables inside for two seasons. Cool season crops are good for seeding in the late summer – when it might be too hot to plant them directly outdoors – so small plants will be ready to be planted out in autumn. And warm season crops should be started indoors in the late winter. If you grow your edibles all in one season, keep in mind you can start your cool season crops earliest and plant them out as soon as the soil is warm enough to dig. Wait to plant out your warmer crops until all possibility of frost is gone.

Root crops like carrots, salsify, beets, etc. are best seeded directly into the garden as they don't like to be transplanted.

Here is a short list of some of the fruits and vegetables that are good to start from seed.


Some cool season crops

Some warm season crops



Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Chinese cabbages, kale, mustard

Squash and pumpkins: best started in larger pots if started indoors

Fava beans



Peppers, hot, sweet or fancy

Asparagus pea



Melons, watermelon

Bulb onions

Beans, bush or climbing


Corn (slightly better in larger pots)