Gardeners are very impatient people and shouldn’t be too eager to start their seedlings inside. It’s easy to get into a rush because seed catalogs start hitting our mailboxes around December. With pandemic gardening rolling over into 2021, many seed companies are having to shut off their websites to try and keep up with the demand. I have recently seen pictures on Facebook of local gardener’s tomatoes they are starting inside. Tomatoes grow extremely fast and shouldn’t be started inside for another month. It is going to be a challenge to keep a tomato as a transplantable size for the next two months. Each year new gardeners will learn lessons and old gardeners will hone their wisdom.
For the most part it’s best to research the time it takes to start seeds and produce a transplantable size. If you do not know, please contact me and let’s work up a plan to get your garden started on the correct path. It’s also a good practice to see which ones actually need to be started inside as opposed to the ones that do better from directly planting the seeds into the garden. Right now you can start things such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and many of your greens. These crops can handle cooler temperatures and will do fine with a light frost. Your goal is to get these into the garden about March 15-20, here in Middle Tennessee.
Warm season crops such as tomato, peppers, and eggplants shouldn’t be started for another month. It generally takes about 6-8 weeks to develop a good size for transplanting. Your goal is to plant these around the first week of May, barring we have no frost in the forecast. Most of the other common vegetables do better from directly planting the seeds into the garden. These include beans, squash, melons, and even cucumbers. They do require warm soil and keep an eye on that forecast. Last year we did end up with a couple of frosts that went into May. Many people went into panic mode, myself included, and had to cover their garden a couple of times in May.
As always, if you have any questions regarding any horticulture facet, feel free to contact Lucas Holman, Horticulture UT-TSU Extension Agent, Wilson County at 615-444-9584 or Lholman1@utk.edu.