My New Year’s Day tradition? Starting seedlings. Yes, I know it seems early, but the timing is just right if you live in a cold climate with a short growing season. Some of those stubborn, slow growing garden plants like tomatoes and peppers just don’t have time to make their yummy fruit. I can’t tell you how many sad, frozen green tomatoes I have pouted over. So, now I have a new tradition: starting seedlings on New Year’s Day. Sewing my slow-growing seeds inside on January 1st to gives them the best head-start possible.
I live and garden in Southwest Colorado, Zone 6A. (Find your Plant Hardiness Zone at the USDA website.) That means our typical planting season, like many of the colder Zones, is pretty short. Plants can safely be outside from June 1st through mid-September. Those three and a half months fly by, and, in my experience, sneaky September frosts often kill off your favorite flowers and veggies before they fully ripen. Tragic.
Instead of planting little seedlings outside when June comes along, I need to plant fairly large tomatoes, peppers, and perennials inside quite early. To give them time to develop, I start now! And it sure makes for a happy New Year’s Day to get your hands dirty and start watching something grow.
Since my home is fairly well lit, I do have the advantage of bright sun in my bedroom most of the day. This means that come January 1st, my bedroom doubles as a seed-starting room and plant nursery. I adore waking up to my little garden of plants every morning.
When planting my seeds, I don’t do anything too fancy. I use square white starter pots and regular potting soil (affiliate links). Make sure the soil is thoroughly saturated with water before planting your seed. When watering, be gentle and careful not to disturb the seed. Or, try watering from the bottom. Place a tray under the seed pot and keep that tray filled with water; the plant will soak the water up through the holes in the pot without disturbing delicate seedlings.
I do supplement their lighting with an LED grow light like this one found on Amazon. This helps prevent the plants from getting leggy (too tall) while they wait to go outside. If your home doesn’t have great lighting, you will probably want to use grow lights for all your indoor garden plants.
Replenish their water to keep your plants hydrated, and a bit of diluted fertilizer once a month after they’ve established themselves is all you’ll need to keep your indoor plants happy. Then, once summer arrives (and those nasty freezes go away), you can harden the plants off and plant them out in the garden.
Acclimating your plants to the outdoor weather is even more important when they’ve spent so much time inside. Make sure you bring them outside on nice, calm days. Too much wind, cold, or heat will shrivel your sheltered plant babies. Give them just a few hours in the outdoor shade to start with. Then, slowly add time to their outdoor recess until they can handle a full day and night outside. I’ll even take the extra step of letting them sit in their garden spot while still in their pots. If they get wilt-y or start getting crispy leaf tips, they may need a different place in the garden or a bit more time in the shade before they are planted out.
A New Gardening Tradition for a New Year
If you’re like me and live in a very chilly part of the world, starting seedlings on New Year’s Day could be an exciting new tradition. And it might just be the ticket to a full harvest this summer.
Happy New Year and happy gardening!