Starting Cole Crop Seeds Indoors

By National Gardening Association Editors

The only time you need to start cole crops indoors is in the spring, since you want to be sure your plants can mature before hot weather hits. If you're planning a fall garden, or if you live in an area where the summers don't get very hot, you can start cole crops from seed right in the garden.

Seed Starting

You can buy transplants at garden centers or through the mail. However, by growing your own, you save money, you can grow varieties you choose, and you have the added satisfaction of doing it yourself. Here's what you need:

  • Sterile, fertilized potting soil or seed starter mix.
  • Flats or individual pots.
  • Seeds. Choose varieties that are right for your climate and soil conditions. Check with your extension agent and local gardeners for advice.
  • Water.
  • Small, flat board or shingle.
  • Newspaper and plastic covering.
  • Light -- sun or artificial.
  • Here's What You Do

  1. Fill the flats with sterile soil or soil mix to about 1- to 11/2-inches from the top.
  2. Smooth the soil with a board or shingle.
  3. Sprinkle the seeds fairly closely, about 1/2-inch apart.
  4. Firm the seeds into the soil.
  5. Cover the seeds with 1/4-inch of soil.
  6. Level and firm the top layer of soil.
  7. Carefully moisten the soil thoroughly until it's damp but not muddy.
  8. Cover the flats with a layer of plastic, then a few sheets of newspaper. The newspaper insulates the flat, ensuring a more even temperature. Most vegetable seeds don't need light to germinate.
  9. Place the flats in a warm spot with an even temperature. Don't use a windowsill; the temperature there fluctuates too much. The top of a refrigerator is better.
  10. When the seedlings first show, remove the plastic and newspaper cover and place the flat in a sunny window or under lights.
  11. Keep the soil moist, not soaked, by watering once (maybe twice) a week. Check for dryness by pressing your finger into the soil; if it feels dry, water.
  12. Once the seedlings are up, give them a small dose of balanced fertilizer or plant food, such as fish emulsion, dissolved in water, about once a week.
  13. When the seedlings grow at least two true leaves, transplant them into another container, leaving about 2 inches between each plant. Give the seedlings water when needed and a steady supply of light.
  14. Ten days before you want to plant the seedlings outside, start preparing them for the transplant shock by hardening them off.

Other articles in this series:
1. The Cole Crop Family
2. Broccoli Essentials
3. Cabbage Essentials
4. Cole Crops and Soil
5. Planning for Cole Crops
6. Fall Cole Crop Bonus
7. Hardening-Off Your Cole Crops
8. Starting Cole Crop Seeds Indoors ← you're on this article right now
9. Brussels Sprout Essentials

This article is a part of our Vegetable Gardening Guide for Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower & Company / Getting Started.

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