There are 13 growing zones in the United States called the hardiness zones created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Sprouting seeds while living in any of the 13 growing zones will be different. To be a successful gardener it’s important to know the timing of planting your seeds. And knowing how plant your sprouted seeds will also be different according to the hardiness zone you live in.
Here is a snapshot of all the 13 hardiness growing zones in the US:
So in today’s free guide on sprouting seeds I’ll begin with growing zone 6. I’ll guide you through the benefits of sprouting seeds indoors in this zone and teach you how to get started the right way.
This guide is one of many to come that will help any beginner gardener or even the advanced gardener with taking the guesswork out of starting seeds indoors starting with growing zone 6. The tips and tricks will put you well on your way to a rewarding and bountiful gardening experience.
3 Benefits of Sprouting Seeds Indoors in Zone 6?
There are several benefits to germinating seeds indoors, the first of which is the price. Starting your own seeds is a lot more cost effective than purchasing starts from a nursery — especially if you are working with a large garden area. One packet of seeds — containing 25-50 seeds– is often half the price of one start.
A local nursery will generally stock the most popular plants giving you only a few varieties to choose from. If you start seeds yourself you can choose from a much wider variety — think purple carrots and neon chard or a specific shade of Dhalia for your cutting garden. The opportunity to choose unique, heirloom or organic seeds is a bonus of sowing seeds indoors.
Headstart/Longer growing season
If you have tried to direct sow your seeds into the ground before, you’ve already benefited from the savings in price and the greater selection but you miss out on the opportunity to get a headstart on your garden. While Zone 6 does have a moderate length garden season, starting seeds indoors gives your garden a headstart similar to planting more costly nursery starts.
Planting your seedling as soon as the ground is warm enough puts you several weeks ahead of the game compared to direct sowing your garden. If a plant is ahead of schedule it will also produce fruit or flowers ahead of schedule allowing you to enjoy your garden (and your hard work!) for even longer. Note that not all plants should be started indoors, some will grow best when sown directly in the garden (see your list for zone 6 below).
6 Steps on How to Sprout Seeds Indoors in Zone 6
Choose a growing medium
Start your seeds in a fresh mix that is light and designed to hold moisture for seedlings. An overly wet or dry environment breeds disease or doesn’t allow the seed to germinate. Homegrown Foods HQ offers our personal favorite, the fool-proof Park Seed’s Biodome which includes an incredible rooting medium called a “bio sponge.” The sponge is the best way we’ve tested to reliably germinate and grow on seeds and that is why we offer it!
Choose a growing container
If you choose the Park Seed Biodome your growing container will be the styrofoam form that holds the bio sponges until they are ready for planting in the ground. Another option is using anything that can hold your growing medium and has drainage holes like a seed starting tray or biodegradable pots that can be planted in the ground.
Set up your light
Sprouting seeds requires a good light source or you run the risk of growing weak and leggy (tall and skinny) plants. If you are starting seeds at a time of year where you get a lot of strong window light you could place your seeds there. If you are unsure or want to take the guessing out of the equation try using artificial plant lights to ensure your plants get the right amount of light no matter what.
Homegrown Foods HQ offers a variety of lighting options from our all-in-one tabletop plant light to a simple but effective Sunblaster light that offers full-spectrum lighting that is perfect for germinating seeds. The lights should only be kept on during the day and turned off at night and it’s best to keep the lights close to the plant — 3-4 inches, adjusting as they grow — to ensure strong seedlings.
Watering seedlings with our Park’s BioDome is as simple as keeping ½-1 inch of water in the bottom of the tray (we told you it was fool proof!). If you are using your own containers and seed starting mix then you’ll need to be careful not to overwater your seedlings. You want your seed mix to be moist but not soaking wet at all times.
Once your seeds sprout then you can put your containers on a tray and water from the bottom by pouring water into the tray.
Care for your Sprouted Seedlings
Keep your germinating and sprouting seedlings in a spot that is easy for you to access and check daily. You’ll want to know when they’ve sprouted and control the light. You’ll want to make sure they stay moist and not soggy and this will require daily diligence. As the plants grow you can raise the lights and keep the water level in your tray at the proper height.
Harden Plants for Planting
If the last frost date for your area has passed and your soil is at the proper temperature for your seedlings (see Zone 6 Planting Chart below) then you want to prepare your seedlings for outdoor planting.
You can’t just take your indoor seedlings and plant them into the ground. The plants will need to harden off, which means being exposed to the sun gradually. Take your seedlings outside for an hour each day for a week before planting. Keep them in the shade and don’t leave them outside overnight. After that week they will be ready to transplant!
Planting List for Zone 6
Zone 6 has a medium length growing season meaning all the vegetables on this list will mature and produce fruit before your first frost date. The last approximate frost date for zone 6 is May 1st and the first frost date is November 1st. Watch the weather when sprouting seeds indoors and taking those seeds to planting. These dates can vary by a week or two.
As a general rule most vegetables should be sown indoors 6 weeks before their planting date unless they are a vegetable that grows better with direct sowing.
Spring Garden (Plant as early as March 25th)
These seeds are direct sow — don’t start them indoors but put them directly into the ground on their planting date:
Later Spring Garden (Plant as early as April 1st)
Summer Garden (Plant after May 15th)
- Pole beans
These dates are recommendations, for more details and information check with your local extension services. For example one of the local gardening extension services in Utah is here.