Interest in home gardening has blossomed throughout the last year, as COVID-19 has confined people to their homes. With the pandemic stretching into another year and spring, thankfully, around the corner, March is a good time to get ready for the growing season ahead, even if the weather isn't quite warm enough for outdoor gardening yet. With seed starting, even novice gardeners can get a jump start on spring.
Seeds can be bought from a variety of places—local building supply stores, garden centers, as well as online, though many online seed companies are already behind on orders or have temporarily stopped taking them, due to a surge in demand. Full planting and care information can be found on the back of the seed packet.
Once your seeds are procured, it's time to find a container to plant them in. Yogurt and other small food containers can work well for starting seeds, provided you drill holes in the bottom and clean them before planting. If you use containers that have held other plants, be sure to avoid potential diseases by sanitizing them—soaking the containers in a one-part bleach and nine-parts water solution for about 10 minutes, then rinsing should do the trick.
When finding a location for your starter seeds, try to find one that will keep them safe from cold drafts, excess heat and pets. Windowsills should be avoided, as they can often be one of the coldest places in the house. Keep the planting mix moist and cover the containers with a sheet of clear plastic wrap to preserve moisture and extend the time in between waterings. When you see green starting to poke through the soil, move your plants under light. Fluorescent light is better than natural light, as it is much more reliable, especially given how cloudy March in Minnesota can be.
Before seedlings can be moved outdoors, they needed to become acclimated to outdoor conditions through a process known as hardening off. Two weeks before transplanting them to your garden, move the seedlings outside for a few hours a day to expose them to sunlight, then bring them back in before the temperatures start dropping at night. Each day, increase the time the plants are outdoors to gradually expose them to more sun.
Once the seedlings have been hardened off, they can be planted outdoors, and you're set to enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor.