One of the most rewarding ways to grow your own vegetables is to start them from seed, plus it’s a great educational experience for kids big and small. Root veggies like carrots, beets and radishes do the best when planted directly in the soil where they will grow as they have a delicate taproot that doesn’t like to be moved. Other garden edibles appreciate the helping hand of growing up a bit indoors before braving the elements. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are good examples of great seeds to start indoors.
This post is meant to add specifics to starting the seeds for these very different types of vegetables. If you are new to seed starting, the please read Seed Starting 101 first, as that is the foundation course for all that is seed starting! You can find that post here:
Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled program…
Tips for Starting Root Vegetable Seeds like Carrots, Beets, and Radishes
- Plant root vegetables in fertile, well-drained soil that has been sifted to remove any stones or hard debris that will obstruct the root growth (and make funny shaped veggies).
- Sow seeds according to the plant depth and spacing as recommended on the seed packet for each variety.
- Carrot and radish seeds are quite small and beet seeds come in clusters, so it will be necessary to thin out your plants when they grow. You can do this by cutting (not pulling) out the seedlings that are the weakest, leaving the strongest lots of room to grow a yummy root.
- Keep seeds moist while they germinate. Once sprouted, make sure they get lots of sun (eight hours per day) and water (don’t let them dry out on hot days). As they grow they will push up their shoulders from the ground so mound soil around them periodically.
- Plant root veggies in spring and summer for a fall harvest or plant over-wintering varieties in late summer for a winter harvest.
- Heat lovers like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants like to be started indoors between four to six weeks before the last date of frost. Starting seeds indoors gives them a jump-start on the growing season and ensures that your plants will have lots of time to produce fruit before it gets chilly outside again.
- Start seeds in homemade newspaper pots set in a plastic nursery tray or even a plastic salad box. Newspaper pots can be made by wrapping 5” strips of newspaper around a wooden pot maker or a household item like a glass or a can. Wrap the paper strip around the form, leaving 1” of paper overhanging the bottom. Crimp and fold the overhanging paper so that it tucks into itself and makes a pot that holds its shape when you remove the form. Use a bit of tape to hold it if necessary.
- Fill each of the paper pots with seed-starting mix, a light, disease-free soil mix made specifically for seed starting. Don’t use garden soil that can have many fungi, bacteria and critters that can attack little seedlings.
- Plant each pot with 3 seeds, cover with soil, and water well. Keep pots moist until seeds germinate and the little green sprouts come up. Sadly, you will have to choose only one strong seedling per pot to keep by cutting (not pulling) the others with clean scissors.
- Keep your seedling in bright sunlight until it gets two to three true leaves (the plant will initially have two “seed” leaves which are rounded, then grow the “true” leaves which look quite different), then transplant the whole pot, newspaper and all, into a larger plastic nursery pot filled with a container mix soil.
- Grow your plant into a teenager in this pot and when it’s warm enough (as determined on your seed packet) you can move it outside.