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There’s no reason to put off planting until the Spring. There are plenty of seeds you can plant right now to ensure you get the most out of your growing season. Plants that thrive in warmer climates, such as tomatoes and chilis, can be started early and then transferred to the garden in spring after the last frost.
Some cold hardy species, such as kale, brussel sprouts and other kinds of brassicas, can be planted outside now depending on your climate or indoors if you have the space. It is good to prepare pollinator-attracting flowers and ornamental plants in early spring to give wildlife a helping hand in the cool early months.
If you’re planting in a heated propagator, make sure to use a low but consistent heat, and check the required temperature on the seed packet. If you are unsure of what temperature to propagate at, a good rule of thumb is about 19 degrees Celsius. This is not too high or low, and most seeds will happily germinate at this temperature.
Some of the best flowers to attract pollinators are wildflowers that are native to your area. They should be native to have the best chance of attracting local pollinator species. Native species can vary quite a lot between different zones, so make sure to check before purchasing any seeds or bulbs.
If you want to attract hummingbirds into your garden, look for flowers that are tubular such as lupines, foxgloves and petunias, as these hold the most nectar. Hummingbirds are particularly attracted to red flowers.
There is a great resource that can tell you which pollinator-friendly plants are native to your state or region here.
Tomatoes are one of the most rewarding crops to grow. Nothing beats the smell and flavor of fresh tomatoes straight from the plant on a summer day. The earlier you can germinate the seeds, the sooner your plants will reach maturity and start giving fruit.
If you get less than six to eight hours of sunlight through the winter months, you may want to invest in an LED grow lamp. These can be bought for about $15 and can really help supplement the few hours of natural sunlight your plants get.
It should be noted that LED lights don’t give off as much heat as traditional grow lamps, so they should be kept in a place where temperatures don’t drop below 15 degrees Celsius.
Basil is an annual plant in more northern climates and its seeds will happily germinate in fairly cool conditions. A heated sunroom or warm windowsill, away from radiators, is the ideal spot to germinate this aromatic herb.
Basil seedlings send up tiny leaves called cotyledon when they germinate, but these are not actually basil leaves. Wait until you see a second larger set of leaves grow from the center of the plant. These are the true basil leaves.
When the plant grows its true leaves, they can be transferred to pots. Leave them in pots to grow on until after the last frost when you can plant them in the garden.
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Eggplants should be started eight to nine weeks before the final frost. Planting them indoors in January will ensure you have substantial plants ready for the spring. You can expect a harvest by mid- to late summer. A stable temperature above 21 degrees Celsius will give the fastest results and at least six hours of sun daily.
5. Bell peppers and chili peppers
If you like super-hot chilis, you should start them off in the first months of the year. The hottest varieties need lots of warm sunny days to develop their fiery flavor. If you live in a cooler state, plant early to ensure your plants have reached maturity by early summer and are bearing fruit.
Bell peppers should be started about two months before the final frost, so they are ready to plant out in spring time. They have quite a long growing season of 60-90 days. When it comes to planting out, peppers can be planted alongside basil to repel hungry pests and insects.
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In warmer climates with mild winters, take advantage of the cool winter months to plant out Kale. Kale grows at its best in a cool climate and needs at least two months of low temperatures to develop healthy, sweet tasting foliage.
January is a great time to be planting kale in some colder climates too. It is recommended to plant out three to five weeks before the last frost, so plant now to transplant outdoors in mid-February.
If temperatures are likely to drop way below freezing, it is a good idea to cover the young plants on an evening. Kale is hardy, but small plants can still be killed by extreme frost.
Broccoli grows best in temperatures up to 21 degrees Celsius. The hot spring or summer sun will stunt its growth, so it is recommended to plant out early in the year. Broccoli should ideally be started six to eight weeks before the last frost and planted out two to three weeks before the final frost.
Broccoli should be planted in full sunlight and grown to full maturity before the warmest months of the year.
In warmer southern states, kohlrabi can be grown over winter, as it is a cool season vegetable. In colder climates where temperatures drop below 7 degrees Celsius, it should be started off between six to eight weeks before the last frost and ready to transplant to the garden in mid-February.
Make sure to grow it to maturity before the hot summer months, as high temperatures above 21 degrees Celsius will stunt growth.
Peas can be planted out as soon as the ground is workable. If you live in a warmer state, plant in January for an early crop of peas. Like kale and broccoli, peas are a cool weather crop and should reach full maturity before the hottest days of summer.
Plant them in full sun against a wall or trellis for the peas to climb up. Peas can happily be planted alongside kale, broccoli and kohlrabi in your garden.