There are seeds that sprout up fast and are mature in just a few weeks (think radishes and peas) and then there are some that are slow and can take ages not only just to germinate, but also to mature. Those slow growing seeds, with a little planning and patience, can often be started in late winter, inside under a grow light, or even on a sunny window sill. The following is a list of several seeds you can start now in most horticultural zones for spring planting:
Leeks: Scatter the seeds on the soil evenly or space them 1 inch apart if you are a perfectionist. Lightly cover the seeds with soil and water gently. Leeks germinate best at 60-70 degrees, and take up to two weeks to sprout. Some great heirloom varieties of leeks include: Autumn Giant, Bleu de Solaise, Bulgarian Giant, Carentan, and Giant Musselburgh.
Cardoons: Sow the seeds 1/4 inch deep and 1/4 inch apart, in a good quality potting soil. Germinate the seeds at about 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Regularly water, but take care not to overwater. Keep the newly emerged seedlings at 65 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night.
Artichokes: Plant the seeds in moist seed-starting mix at a depth of four times the size of the seeds. Pack down the soil very lightly. Water the seeds lightly until the soil is just barely moist. Use a spray bottle to keep the soil moist without soaking it. The soil should be kept between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the container or tray of seeds in a well-lighted area next to a window. Alternatively, you can place the seeds under a grow light for about 12 hours a day.
Celery: Soak the tiny seeds overnight to encourage germination. Fill a container with a mix of potting soil, fine compost, and sand, and plant in rows 1 inch apart. Cover the seeds with a sand layer no more than 1/2 inch deep, then cover the flats with damp sphagnum moss, burlap, or paper towels until seeds sprout.
Celeriac: Like celery and parsley (all members of the Umbelliferae family), do best with an overnight soak of the seeds to hasten germination. Fill a container with a mix of potting soil, fine compost, and sand, and plant in rows 1 inch apart. Cover the seeds with a sand layer no more than 1/2 inch deep, then cover the flats with damp sphagnum moss, burlap, or paper towels until seeds sprout.
Strawberries: Sow the seeds on the surface of pre-moistened, seed starting mix in trays or small containers. Place these on a piece of thick cloth that has its end sitting in water, so the water is wicked up from below and thus the medium stays constantly and evenly damp until germination. Keep your seeded trays under bright fluorescent lights at a constant temperature of 18-24°C (65-75°F). Germination may take anywhere from 7 days to 6 weeks. Once germination occurs, increase ventilation around your plants to prevent damping off. Transplant into individual pots once they have their 3rd true leaf.
Rosemary: Place the seed onto a well drained base such as sand, vermiculite or very light potting mix. Cover the seed with a little more mix, water lightly and place the container in a warm location or onto a heat mat (75-85 degrees). No light is required until after germination. Cover the container with plastic wrap until you see the seeds starting to emerge. As soon as you see the tiny rosemary plants starting to grow, it is important to give them a good light source and a warm environment.
Lavender: Germination occurs around 70ºF to 75ºF and will take two or more weeks. Unlike some other seeds, Lavender seeds benefit from light while germinating so only cover lightly when sowing. Rather than a traditional potting mix, use a very light mix or fine vermiculite that drains very quickly. The seedlings will germinate in about two weeks and will take a while to look like lavender. Make sure that the seedlings get sufficient water, but do not let them stay damp.
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