Now is the time to start sowing

This month is the time to start your seeds indoors so you can put the transplants — tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zinnias, marigolds and celosia — outdoors when warm weather stabilizes, usually in May.

"Warm-season annuals like to be outdoors May 1 or later, the warmer the soil, the better start they get," says Lisa Ziegler of The Gardener's Workshop, a southeastern Virginia-based online source of seeds and gardening supplies (

"Soil is typically 10 degrees cooler than air temperatures and it takes a couple of weeks of warm air temps to warm the soil — one day of 80 degrees doesn't do it."

When you buy seed packs, be sure to first read the directions carefully for information on how to prep the seed and plant it properly.

Here are some seed-starting tips to get you growing:

Seeding terms

Seeds from different plants have different germination requirements, and seed packs tell you which method to use, including:

  • Stratification, or periods of warm and cold temperatures.
  • Scarification, when there's a thick or hard seed coat that needs a nick, cut or scratch.
  • Soaking, when a large volume of dried tissue needs to be submerged in water for 24 hours before sowing.
  • Sowing straight from the package into soil-filled pots or the ground.

Seeding supplies

  • Containers such as a shallow tray or empty egg carton.
  • Sterile seed-starting mix
  • Seeds
  • Labels/markers
  • Light source
  • Mister

Seed-starting tips

  • Store seed in refrigerator until ready to use
  • Read seed packs for directions on how to handle and sow seeds.
  • Avoid sowing seed too thick; it's hard to separate seedlings when you need to move them to larger pots.
  • Label seeds with common and botanical names.
  • Keep soil lightly moist until germination.

Seed-starting sources

  • Seeds, soil blockers, seeding kits and a how-to video; The Gardener's Workshop at
  • Coir pellets that expand into a growing medium within a pot when watered; garden centers nationwide and Burpee at
  • Heirloom seeds from Renee's Garden;

Want to sow seed directly in the garden? For flowers, do zinnias, sunflowers, celosias, bachelor's buttons, cosmos, ornamental grasses, marigolds, morning glory and moonflower vines, monarda, nasturtiums, rudbeckias and scabiosa.

For vegetables, do lettuce, arugula, Asian greens, kale, kohlrabi, carrots, radishes, squash, beans, beets, corn, fennel, peas, spinach and chard.

For herbs, do basil, catnip, chamomile, chives, cumin, cilantro, dill, parsley and sage.

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