Question: When is the time to start vegetables and annual flowers indoors to plant outside in spring?
The time to start seedlings indoors depends on plants’ individual growth rates and the recommended dates in your area for putting plants in the ground. To figure the seed-starting date, start with the recommended planting time, calculate the plant’s germination and growing time (often noted on the seed package), and count back the required number of weeks to reach the date for starting the seeds.For example, to grow seedlings of a warm-season flower like zinnias in Middle Tennessee (where The Garden Bench calls home), we can plan on putting transplants in the ground after mid-April, the area’s last average frost date. The approximate growing time for zinnia seedlings is about 4-6 weeks, so you can sow zinnia seeds indoors early- to mid-March. Tomato seeds, another warm-weather favorite, can be sown in flats indoors 5 – 7 weeks before it’s time to transplant, so we can plan on starting them early in March.
To start cool-weather vegetables indoors, begin much earlier. For example, some leaf lettuces can be started indoors 4 weeks before the soil outdoors can be worked; bigger, tougher cool-season favorites like broccoli and cauliflower need 5 to 7 weeks to reach transplanting size. Sowing indoors now until the end of January can provide transplants ready to go in the ground at the end of February.
Give the seedlings plenty of light and the recommended moisture as they grow, and harden them off – expose them gradually to outdoor weather – before planting them in the ground.
Thinking of spring?
Spring will be here before you know it. Here are the dates of a few favorite Middle Tennessee events that you can put on your calendar now:
Jan. 21: The Orchid Society of Middle Tennessee meets at Cheekwood botanical Garden. Speaker is Tom Harper, with a presentation on the Mid America Orchid Congress meeting in Dayton. Refreshments at 6:30, meeting at 7 p.m. open to the public.
Feb. 1: The Land Trust for Tennessee’s Glen Leven Farm presents a beekeeping workshop. Beekeeper Trevor Qualls, from Bon Aqua Springs Apiaries, offers an introduction to the fascinating world of honeybees, 10 a.m. – 4:15 p.m., $35. Space is limited. To register, contact Christine Burk at CBurk@landtrusttn.org or 615-308-1711.
Feb. 27 – March 2: Nashville Lawn & Garden Show at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville. This year’s theme is “Wine & Roses” and will offer visitors the chance to sample wine from area vineyards.
April 5: Perennial Plant Society’s annual plant sale at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville. Doors open at 9 a.m. There will be more than 450 varieties of plants for gardens big and small, plus expert advice on choosing and growing the perfect plant from PPS gardeners. Free admission; parking fee at the Fairgrounds is $5. For more details and a full plant list visit www.ppsmt.org.
April 26: The sixth annual Herb & Craft Fair sponsored by First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville. Shop for herb seedlings, heirloom tomatoes and other plants, and a wide selection of handcrafted items: pressed-flower cards, calendars, gift and jewelry items; natural handmade soaps with essential oils and fragrant herbs; Sewn and hand-knit items, sweet breads, herb breads, spice mixes and rubs, herbal vinegars, jams, jellies, chutney and more.