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Seeds Every Northern Gardener Should Start In Early April

Written by – Kaitlynn from MIgardener 

This new blog series is written primarily for our northern dwelling readers. In the next few weeks, we will be laying out a few of the foundational varieties we recommend to start indoors in our region during mid-March, early-April, late-April, etc. Later, we’ll talk more about what we will be directly sowing as the weather warms up outside.

For northerners, starting larger vining crops in early April can become a waste of space in no time at all. It’s a common misconception that things like zucchini, squash, and melons should be started at this time when, in reality, they would overgrow to the point where transplant shock would most likely cause irreversible damage. These varieties don’t take long to get started and will grow perfectly if you are patient with them. Look for posts on these varieties next week! 

Here are the varieties northerners should start in early April:

Tomatoes 

seed starting

Germination time: 14-21 days

Germination Temp: 60-95 degrees F

Start tomatoes seeds indoors to get a headstart on their germination time. It’s also helpful to start them early to make sure they are starters that will establish well before they are planted out. Tomato plants need approximately 5-6 weeks to become strong enough for transplanting. Did you know tomatoes are technically classified as tropical fruits?  Because of this, tomatoes need hot weather to set fruit and stay healthy. Mainly dry heat, which is what most tomatoes ancestors were accustomed to. Planting these out before the soil and nights are warm (above 70 degrees F) would result in dying off. Plan these crops so their fruit can mature during mid-July to save the plants from struggling to produce in the muggy heat of August. To check out our full tomato growing guide, click here

Herbs

seeds start

Germination Time: 10-25 days (some much longer)

Germination Temp: 80-90 degrees

Herbs can take a variety of days to germinate, but some of them will take longer to establish than others, and you can save time in the garden by starting them indoors if you have the time. Early April is the perfect time to start things like basil, parsley, and chives. Check out this complete basil growing guide video for more info on this subject. Some of these seeds require stratification before seed starting, which adds an entirely new layer to the process. The seed stratification process mimics the cold of winter for your seeds to increase germination rates. 

Peppers 

seed starting

Germination Time: 7-28 days

Germination Temp: 60-95 degrees F

Start pepper seeds indoors to get a headstart on their germination time. It’s also helpful to start them early to make sure they are starters that will establish well before they are planted out. Pepper plants need approximately 5-6 weeks to become fully developed, just like tomatoes. Peppers are related to tomatoes, and are classified as tropical fruits! Because of this, peppers need hot weather to set fruit and stay healthy. Planting these out before the soil and nights are warm (above 70 degrees F) would result in dying off. Time these crops, so their fruit matures during mid-July to save them from struggling to produce in the muggy heat of August. For our full pepper growing guide, click here

Edible Flowers

seed starting

Germination time: from 5-10 days depending on the variety

Germination Temp: approx. 60-70 degrees F

I wanted to add this little section because while most flower varieties do well direct sown once the weather gets warm, there are a few that benefit from being started early. This will give you the chance to enjoy them in the garden for a more significant percentage of the year instead of watching them bloom slightly before the first frost hits. Flowers like this are violas, bachelors buttons, marigolds, borage, bee balm, to name a few. For more on edible flowers, click here.

Eggplants

seed starting

Germination Time: 14-21 days 

Germination Temp: 60-95 degrees F

Start eggplant seeds indoors to get a headstart on their germination time. It’s also helpful to start them early to make sure they are starters that will establish well before they are planted out. Eggplants need approximately 5-6 weeks to become developed enough for transplanting. Technically a tropical fruit, eggplants need hot weather to set fruit and stay healthy. Planting these out before the soil and nights are warm (above 70 degrees F) would result in dying off. Time these crops so that their fruit matures during mid-July to save them from struggling to produce in the muggy heat of August. For our full eggplant growing guide, click here.

Keep your eyes open for future posts! Hopefully, these posts will help all of our midwestern and Michigan friends plan their best gardens ever in 2020.

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