Starting the Vegetable Garden

Millie Davenport,
Home & Garden Information Center

It is time to start working on the warm-season vegetable garden. Gardeners in the coastal plains can start sowing vegetable seeds and moving transplants outside this month, while gardeners in the Piedmont region should begin sowing seed for transplants.

Planting Dates for the Coastal Region
VegetablesDate
Beans, Snap March 15 - 30
Beans, Pole March 20 - 30
Beans, Half-runner March 15 - 30
Beans, Lima March 20 - April 1
Cantaloupe/Honeydew March 10 - April 10
Cucumber March 20 - 30
Eggplant transplants March 25 - April 10
Pepper transplants March 25 - April 10
Squash March 20 - April 10
Sweet Corn March 10 - April 30
Southern Peas March 25 - April 15
Tomato transplants March 25 - April 10
Watermelon March 25 - April 20

For other regions, start seeds 6 weeks earlier than time for transplant. For planting dates by region see, HGIC 1256, Planning a Garden.

Seed starting tips:

Start with clean containers and a sterile potting soil. Potting soil that is purchased provides a sterile, well-drained, well-aerated atmosphere for seeds to germinate. In addition, the use of a soil-less media like potting soil reduces the chance of infection by soil-borne fungi, such as Pythium, that causes damping-off.

To protect seeds from drying out during the germination process, place a plastic bag or plastic wrap over the container or flat. Remove the plastic cover once seeds germinate. To prevent seedlings from becoming leggy, place them near a south-facing window. If this is not convenient, place them 2 to 4 inches below a fluorescent light for 16 to 18 hours a day. After seeds germinate and the true leaves appear feed them with a water-soluble fertilizer every other week.

Before planting the new crops into the soil, harden them off by gradually exposing them to more direct sunlight each day. Start off by placing the plants outside in partial shade during the day and bring them in at night. The transplants should be left outside longer each day. Be sure to watch the weather so that transplants are not damaged by frost. The hardening-off process will take two to three weeks.

For more information see, HGIC 1259, Starting Seeds Indoors.

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