Why Now is the Time to Start Vegetable Plants

When the winter winds are blowing, the idea of puttering around in the garden seems eons away. And yet, these frigid months are the perfect time to get started. Steps taken now to plant, nurture and prepare your vegetables can have a big payoff.

Carol Sevrey, a retired biology teacher who works at Whispering Hills Garden & Landscape Center, in Cary, suggests starting with a little planning.

First, consider how you’ll lay out your garden. Consider that some plants need more heat and sun, while others prefer a little shade. Sevrey puts cool-weather crops like lettuce, spinach and broccoli on the shady side of her garden.

If you don’t have a patch of ground that can be dug and tilled, don’t despair. Above-ground beds and containers are a suitable alternative.

Once your plans are ready, consider getting a head start on planting. Many crops, including lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower can be started indoors, beginning around February.

Most seedling starter kits come with a plastic tray or lid that can be used for sprouting. Flats from last year’s flowers work, too. Stick with a light potting mix or seed-starting mix and set the trays in a sunny spot of the house.

When it’s time to take the seedlings outside, keep a close eye on Mother Nature. Balmy months like March, April and early May might still have a few frosty days up their sleeves, and you don’t want all of that winter work to go to waste.

“Tomatoes, green peppers and squash are more hot-season vegetables,” Sevrey says. “I always try to push the boundaries a little bit.”

If there’s any doubt, there’s plenty of help available at the local plant nursery, where designers and professional gardeners can offer insights and advice – especially during these slow winter months.

“You just have to try stuff,” says Sevrey. “If you try different kinds of seeds and vegetables and it doesn’t work out, you can try again next year with something new.”

Whispering Hills Garden & Landscape Center is located at 8401 S. Ill. Rt. 31, Cary, (847) 658-5610.