Getting a head start is generally speaking, the best way to go. The early bird gets the biggest worm, the early shopper gets the best bargain, and the worker who shows up 15 minutes early every day for their shift gets to be Employee of the Month. But when it comes to gardening, a little procrastination is a wonderful thing.
I get it. By early March, every gardener, is itching to get their seeds started and their young plants growing. We are all sick of old man winter's nasty ways - he's dumped ice and snow and storms full of wintry mixes all over the place for months now. Just thinking about spring seems to make us feel better.
You want to get those pepper and tomato and tomatillo seeds off to a great start, so you buy some seed starting supplies and set up a grow light and....okay, stop right there!
Don't get me wrong. Planning your garden early and shopping for seeds and supplies is a great idea. Especially during the pandemic when seeds and gardening supplies are selling out quickly. But too many gardeners start germinating the seeds they start indoors WAY too early.
It's best to transplant your young plants into the garden when they are about 5-6 weeks old, after danger of frost has passed in your area. In the Northeast, the frost free date is around Memorial Day. Planning backwards, that means you should begin germinating your indoor-started seeds in late April.
Yup, that's right! Not March, definitely not February, not even early April. If you start your seeds too early, they will just get leggy and rootbound before you can plant them outside. Even a 4 inch pot can't provide enough room for the roots of an 8 week old plant, so the roots will just start growing in circles around the inside of the pot. Though they were started earlier, the leggy, rootbound, plants are weaker and more susceptible to drought and disease. Ironically, if you just wait a few more weeks, you'll grow sturdier, healthier seedlings that will have a true "head start" in their growth cycle.