Seed Starting Tips for the Snowy Northlands

seedlings by Steven DePolo

photo credit: Steven DePolo


It’s been a another long, cold winter in Vermont this year. While many of us would like to shed the winter boots and get out into the garden, it appears that we’re going to have to wait at least a few more weeks for all of the snow and ice to melt away. As we’re dreaming of longer days and bright sunshine, it’s the perfect time to get some seeds started indoors.

With our limited growing season in the north, it’s important to get a jumpstart on germination and early growth for certain longer season plants so they’ll have a better chance at producing a bumper crop before the first frost hits in the fall. Tomatoes, onions, peppers, and certain herbs and flowers are some of the plant varieties that should be started well ahead of time. Cucurbits (melons, cucumbers, squashes, pumpkins) and brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts) also benefit from an early start, but shouldn’t be started until closer to transplanting dates (when frost danger has passed and soil temperatures are adequate for good growth).

The best time to start your seeds depends on where you live and what the local climate conditions are for your area. If you know when your last winter frost is (this can generally be found online if you’re unsure), you can use an online seed starting calendar to give guidance for optimal seed starting times. We have found the seed starting calendar on Margaret Roach’s blog to be very helpful. Her gardening blog is helpful, as it is written from a regional perspective (she gardens in the Hudson Valley of New York).

While it can be tempting to get all of your seeds started at once, you’ll be much happier come transplant time if you’ve practiced patience and followed recommendations for your area. Seed starts that are started too early become root bound and won’t do as well once they’ve been transplanted. It’s also important to not take chances plant your transplants too early. A deceivingly warm week in April can be quickly followed by a frost, and may lead to losing all of your transplants.

Some tips for successful seed starts:

  1. Use a high-quality seed starting mix such as GMC’s Premium Seed Starter Mix.
  2. Use high quality and “fresh” seeds Get free High Mowing Organic Seeds with every order of Green Mountain Compost this season.
  3. Follow recommended seed starting times specific to the plant type and your area’s climate (see above).
  4. prevent leggy and spindly plants. A cold room or inconsistent temperatures can be problematic.
  5. Don’t forget to water and recruit a friend or neighbor to water for you if you’re going to be away for a few days. Too much water is also a problem, so don’t drown your seedlings!
  6. Transplant seedlings into intermediary pots before bringing them outside if they’re outgrowing the containers you started them in.
  7. Indoor starts need to be “hardened off” before transplanting into your garden Read this post on High Mowing Organic Seed’s blog for tips on how to harden off your plants .

Best of  Luck and Happy Gardening!