Gardening can be one of the most relaxing—and delicious—pastimes of summer.
But if you live in a part of the country where summer doesn’t really begin until the end of May or beginning of June, you’ll want to get a head start on growing delicious vegetables and herbs that you can enjoy with your family this year.
Don’t know where to begin? We’ve got you covered with this guide to indoor planting for a successful outdoor garden.
Before you get started, it’s a good idea to bring your summer tools to the front of your garage or shed for easy access. While you’re reorganizing, consider placing some of your winter-weather gear in storage.
The team at Closetbox can easily transport your snow blower, snow shovels and other belongings to a secure storage unit. When the first frost rolls around next winter, they’ll deliver your belongings back to you—all you have to do is let them know.
If this is your first time starting your garden indoors, take it slow. You can easily get overwhelmed and frustrated if you bite off more than you can chew, says Angela Price, the founder of Eden Condensed Garden Design.
She also pointed out that you won’t be able to keep every single plant once your garden really takes off, so don’t worry about using an entire seed packet. Consider sharing your leftover seeds with a neighbor, or splitting a packet to begin with.
“Pick three to five veggies to start by seed indoors that transplant to the garden easily like squash tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and peppers,” she says. “You only need a couple of seedlings per vegetable to have a bountiful garden, so don’t worry about planting every see in the packet.”
You’ll want to plant your seeds indoors approximately six weeks before the last frost of the season. It’s a bit of a guessing game, but there’s likely historical data available online or at your local extension office.
Focus on soil
You can try all the “green thumb” tactics in the world, but they will be wasted if you don’t plant your seeds in high-quality soil.
Price recommends looking for a quality organic potting soil or a starting soil mix during your next trip to the garden supply store.
“A good quality soil will provide adequate drainage and the right nutrition that the seeds need,” Price says.
As for what to plant your seeds in, Price says you can use egg cartons or toilet paper tubes that are cut in half and folded at the bottom. You can also use biodegradable containers made specially for starter seeds such as CowPots, she says.
No matter what you choose, be sure your soil has proper drainage—consider poking a few holes in the containers to let excess water escape.
Pick the right location
Once you’ve figured out which vegetables and herbs you want to start from seed, scour your home for the perfect place for them. Price recommends looking for a sunny spot that’s fairly warm—65 to 75 degrees is preferable.
“Having good light and turning the seed pots daily once the seeds sprout will encourage strong stems and even growth,” she says.
Also, be sure to properly label each container if you’re planting more than one type of vegetable! There’s nothing worse than have to guess what a tiny seedling will turn into.
Ready the garden
Before you think about transplanting your seedlings, you’ll want to give your garden area some extra loving.
Clear any debris or remaining plant matter leftover from last year. Then, till or aerate the soil so it’s loose and not hard packed from watering the previous summer. Add some earthworms and some organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion or seaweed to create nutrient-rich soil that will allow your plants to thrive.
Once summer arrives, how do you know when it’s time to transfer your tiny plants? You definitely want to make sure the last frost has occurred, so don’t jump the gun and plant too early. No matter where in the country you live, you’ll want the soil temperature to hover between 60 and 70 degrees for most summer vegetables.
First, you’ll want to undergo a process known as “hardening off,” which essentially prepares your plants for life outside. Begin by setting them outdoors for a few hours each day and gradually increase the amount of time they spend out in the elements.
After about a week of this, you’re ready to transplant your starters into your garden. Carefully pull the entire contents of each container out—dirt, roots and seedlings. Create a small hole in your garden for each transplant, then carefully cover the roots with dirt. Water liberally and consider adding some transplant fertilizer.