Seed starting time!

Thanks. Forgot all about the timing. I’m trying to expand to some other markets outside of fruit and nut. Vegetables and herbs really don’t make money though. Melons and pumpkins are probably the best in that category. Any suggestions?

The first and foremost problem with pumpkins is powdery mildew. There are a few available that have genetic resistance. I strongly suggest getting some seed that are rated PMR. I just looked on Johnnyseeds and see they have a new one “The Boss” that looks pretty good. Look it over and figure out if it is worth buying 250 or 500 seed. They sprawl quite a bit so one hill (2 or 3 seed) to 50 square feet is plenty. This sounds like a lot of room, but 5 feet by 10 feet gives 50 square feet. 1/2 acre of pumpkins would be very full if planted with 500 seed.

A farmer I grew up with sometimes grows a field of pumpkins, usually 40 acres. He plants them in late June with with target maturity just before Halloween. This is in north Alabama so adjust accordingly for your climate.


I started more peppers and tomatoes over the last few days. I also have brassicas including cabbage, red cabbage, broccoli, 3 kinds of cauliflower, 2 kinds of brussel sprouts, and kohlrabi in cell trays with several already germinating.

A few times in life, you find something really useful. Well, a few years ago I found a fantastic way to grow brassica family members. Brassicas have a problem that when they germinate, they grow rapidly and form a weak stem that eventually flops sideways as the leaves and growing bud develop. I struggled with producing healthy plants for a lot of years trying various methods of putting seed start mix into trays, cups, and cells. They always flopped sideways which prevents production of good looking and fast growing seedlings. About 12 years ago, I had an epiphany moment when I realized that brassicas are very strong rapid germinators. So I filled a cell tray with seed start mix moderately packed and then punched finger size holes in each cell all the way to the bottom of the cell, about 1.5 inches deep. I then dropped one seed in each hole of a 48 cell tray. The seed germinated under lights and promptly grew up out of the hole just above the soil surface. I then pinched the soil mix around the stems and the plants grew into very sturdy healthy seedlings. I only adjusted one thing since. I found that the hole needs to be a bit wider at the top than at the bottom so I move my fingers back and forth just enough to make the hole about an inch diameter at the top and fingertip size at the bottom. The seed start mix should be very moist but not soggy. Do NOT cover the seed in any way, they are happy in the bottom of the hole with plenty of moisture. They should germinate in 2 or 3 days and grow up out of the hole in 10 to 14 days. Keep them under bright lights!


Spinach and lettuce started in Jan 2023.

Spinach is doing well… it has been wet and cool… but so far it does not seem to mind.

That is my second attempt at starting more leaf lettuce… first one in ground flopped… this one in small planter pots kept inside at 71-72F until some emerged… is doing well.


Spinach is cold hardy down to about 15F. I don’t start mine until the 1st of February. The intense cold just before Christmas would have killed spinach.

For anyone starting seed, lettuce must NOT be covered. It requires light to germinate. Drop seed on the surface of seed start mix and keep well watered. Lettuce seed will usually germinate very well for 2 years, some the 3rd year, and usually none by the 4th or 5th year. Buy fresh seed for best results. I recommend heat tolerant lettuce in southern regions. Do NOT grow Black Seeded Simpson. Jericho, Nevada, and similar will give excellent results. Johnny’s and Fedco sell Jericho. Really Red Deer Tongue does very well as do a few other leaf types. has an outstanding lineup of lettuce and some very good sweet peppers. If started indoors, lettuce can be transplanted so long as it is less than 4 inches tall.

Onions from seed require a thin layer of seed start mix to germinate properly. Keep them moist and give them plenty of light.

Peas should be planted in this region before the middle of February. I don’t plant before the first of February because it is usually difficult to till the soil due to rain. I plant peas in rows with 3 or 4 seed per foot. Peas require a trellis - depending on growth habit - from 3 feet to 6 feet high. Drop the seed into a tilled row, do NOT make a trench. Step on the seed lightly as they are dropped to make good capillary contact with the soil. Cover with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil. Heavy spring rains will wash soil into a trench preventing germination so the objective is to have the peas planted at soil level. Birds will sometimes pull up and eat pea seed. I’ve had to put mesh covers over them at times to prevent damage.

Carrots and spring Radishes are the ultimate companion crop. Drop radish seed and carrot seed in shallow trenches and cover with peat moss, seed start mix, or sand. Radishes are strong germinators and will break the soil if it crusts which permits the carrots to grow. I make a bed 3 feet wide by the length of the garden to plant things like radishes, carrots, turnips, spinach, celery, etc

Don’t forget to prepare your potatoes to plant! I have an order for Sarpo Mira and have an abundance of plants started from seed. I make rows with middles 4 feet wide so there is plenty of room for potatoes to spread out. Outstanding varieties here in the South include Kennebec and Red Pontiac. Red Pontiac is superb as new potatoes about an inch to 2 inches diameter. It is susceptible to nematodes so be sure to rotate them in the garden to avoid pest buildup. Kennebec is a very good potato for frying and french fries. Other varieties I’ve grown and enjoy include German Butterball, Azul Toro (deep blue/purple), La Ratte, French Fingerling, and Yellow Finn. I’ve grown about 100 other varieties, but most were bland, low producters, or had other problems.


@Fusion_power … i have been growing black seeded simpson for many years here and it does very well in spring and fall… taste great, tender, mild.

It does not do well when the heat turns up or if growing in a cold frame thru deep winter months… but in your average good leaf lettuce growing months… it does very well here.

I have not heard of the two varieties you mentioned… but will check them out.

I have noticed in my attempts to grow lettuce all fall and thru the winter months into spring that one variety that i have tried seems to work best. It is the oak leaf variety.

I have a leaf lettuce gourmet blend that includes grand rapids, salad bowl, red salad bowl, Oakleaf, Flame types in it…

Once i get into late Dec and January… the Oakleaf is still doing well… and the others have faded.

So for anyone attempting to grow leaf lettuce all winter in a hot bed or cold frame… Oakleaf has worked well for me.

Ps… my leaf lettuce survived unharmed in my cold frame with a low of 3F. And 4 days below freezing mostly in the teens and low 20s just b4 Christmas.

A string of 300 small incadescent Christmas lights… inside my cold frame worked great.

Ps… below is some oakleaf.

It does well thru the very coldest parts of winter (with protection) where many others fade away… and when the heat comes… it stays mild and not bitter better than most.


Black Seeded Simpson has been the only variety sold in seed stores. It is a poor performer in all regards except in a narrow window in spring and late fall. Even then, flavor is unremarkable. Check out Wildgardenseeds which I linked above and see Outredgous which is a very good lettuce. You can sometimes find Nevada in Walmart, Lowes, or Home Depot when they have spring seed displays. Jericho will hold without bolting until July. That is a full 2 months longer than Black Seeded Simpson. Jericho is available from a few suppliers as listed above and perhaps others I don’t know about. I’ve grown Forellenschluss and Orielles de Diables with good results in the spring. They are not heat tolerant. I’ve grown at least 200 different varieties of lettuce over the years. Only a few were consistently good in my garden. I’ve never grown a heading lettuce that is acceptable this far south. Batavia and Romaine types do very well as do most leaf types.

Trivia item, there is only one commonly consumed vegetable that is never preserved, never frozen, never consumed any other way than fresh. Lettuce!

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@Fusion_power … do you know if any of those varieties are especially cold hardy ? Grow well even in colder temps like 32-45… I like the challenge of growing lettuce all winter in my cold frame.

I have heard that red lettuce is more cold hardy than green…

I planted some red varieties this fall and rabbits wiped it out …

Outredgous does very well in cool temperatures. Most lettuce is very adaptable but some do better in winter. Look at Fedco’s listing for lettuce and look at Frank Morton’s listing on wildgardenseed. Lettuce - Fedco Seeds

Start from seeds and it will take two seasons to get normal size garlic.

Crocket (in Boston) says start tomatoes early April. Around here (NY) I’ll wait till March. Planted outdoors in May there is still not much growth unless some cloche or small greenhouse protection is used.

We find spinach does best for us when planted in the fall and allowed to overwinter protected. Spring planted spinach just doesn’t seem to grow very well for us.

We decided to try Outredgous a few years ago when we saw it listed at Nichols Garden Nursery. I was actually placing an order for Redwing Onion seeds and this was the only company I could find selling the seeds instead of just the sets.

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Sowed my first tray of seeds in the greenhouse this year, I’m sure there will be many more to come since I just placed an order from EFN for all kinds of stuff. But here’s what I’ve started now, some of these will be destined for the outdoor garden and some for the greenhouse beds:

  • Physalis peruviana
  • Pink Boar tomato
  • Alma Paprika pepper
  • Syrian Goathorn pepper
  • Aji Guyana pepper
  • Sweet Fall squash
  • Oregon Homestead squash (will be direct sowing more outside later in spring)
  • Small Jadu’i watermelon

On the way from EFN:

  • Puerto Cortes tomato
  • Wild Everglades tomato
  • “Wild Panamorous” tomato seed mix (I’ve decided one garden bed will get those to see if any of them can make it through the fall rains without rotting long before the first frost)
  • An assortment of different flowers for the next stage of lawn-to-wildflower-meadow conversion

I’ve also direct-sown the first spring batch of cilantro, the fall-self-sown ones are in need of thinning and look ready to grow bigger, but I’m trying a new variety this spring.

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I have noticed that too. We haven’t put cilantro seed down since 2006 when we moved in. We always end up with a bumper crop. I particularly like to munch the dried seeds right off the plant. Yum.

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Thought I’d ordered all the seed I needed for this season, but last night, my wife was saying something about Brussels Sprouts and Asparagus… Asparagus I know… Brussels Sprouts… not so much.
Anyone got a recommendation on an especially good BS variety? Source?

If you just need a few seed, I’ll send you a couple of varieties of Brussels Sprouts seed. 20 plants is usually enough for 4 people to have all they can eat.

Brussels Sprouts have gone through dramatic genetic changes in the last 20 years. Commercial varieties were bitter and generally lacking flavor. Old heirloom varieties were brought out of storage and crossed with commercial varieties. The new lines are hands down better flavored and are highly productive. Johnny’s Seeds carries a few varieties that do very well in my climate and should work in yours. I have Gladius and Divino as started plants.

A few cautions are needed. Spring grown Brussels Sprouts are magnets for cabbage worms. Use Dipel diligently. Also monitor for fruit worms and use a good pesticide when found. I use Pyganic which is organically accepted.

I just looked at a calendar. You need to put them in the ground about the middle to end of March. Are you sure you can grow large enough seedlings in that time frame?

seconding Johnny’s for bs seeds.

I started all my stuff in the hoophouse; I put a small heater out there and heat mats last month and I’m on round two of starts. I’ll have a full table to give away and enough for myself too, by April. I pot up to bigger pots as they grow in there. sometimes I’m putting out flowering tomatoes in May after our last frost.

I jump the gun and try a few too early every year so I do need a few extra as backup.

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Question. The netting around the little jiffy pellets. Is it necessary to remove the web/net before planting?

Thanks for the reminder on the cabbage loopers… I usually don’t plant a lot of Cruciferae in spring, except for a few collards & turnips/rutabagas and mustard… and know that if I fall behind with the BT, they’re gonna get demolished. I usually use bulk saved seed for that spring planting, 'cause I have plenty of it on hand.
Have a bunch of new-to-me collard, kale, and rutabaga seed that I’ll be planting for fall/winter crop

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It has been over 20 years since I tasted my first and last Brussels sprouts. Glad to see they have improved.

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