NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

March 14, 2012

Tim's Tips: Grow veggie plants indoors now

With the rising costs of gasoline and food and the worry about the quality of the food we buy, many of you will be planting a vegetable garden this year. If you grow your own food, you can save money and you can be sure of the quality of your vegetables because you will control the environment in which they are grown.

There are some vegetable plants that you can start indoors, and there are some that you can plant from seed directly into your garden beds.

The plants that you would commonly start indoors include tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, watermelon and herbs. There are other plants that don't transplant well, and they should be seeded directly into the garden. These would include carrots and beets.

If you want to start some of your plants indoors, you need to start the plants at the right time. If you start the plants too soon, they will be overgrown before you have a chance to set the plants into the garden.

Many of your vegetable plants will be killed by a frost if you set the plants out too early. In our area, the average date for the last frost is May 10. But we have had frosts as late as Memorial Day. As a general rule, you want to start your plants indoors 8 to 10 weeks before you would place the plants in the garden. There are some vegetables that you can plant earlier in the garden, in late April or early May. These include broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and kale. If you look at your calendar, now would be the right time to start many of your plants indoors.

If you want to successfully grow your vegetable plants indoors, you need to put them in a warm and sunny area. If you have a south- or west-facing window, and your home temperatures are in the mid- to upper-60s during the day, you should be able to successfully grow your plants indoors. If your conditions are less than perfect, you can set up grow lights to provide sufficient light for your plants. Heat mats can provide the warmth your plants need for optimum growth.

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