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11 Vegetable Plants to Start Indoors Before Spring

Start planting nutritious vegetables before the ground thaws with these indoor gardening tips.

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Plantings must be timed so that the clusters of small flower buds the plant produces can be harvested while the days remain cool. For best results, start the seeds indoors four to six weeks before the time to set out the seedlings, which you should calculate as two weeks before the date of the last expected frost.

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Brussels Sprouts

In cold climates Brussels sprouts can be started indoors like broccoli for an early harvest and a second crop can be sown outdoors at the usual time.

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Early cabbage should be sown indoors five to eight weeks before the last expected frost. You can also grow early cabbage from seedlings bought in a nursery.

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For spring plantings in most areas, start cauliflower seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last expected frost. Sow the seeds in individual pots, three or four seeds to a pot. Keep the seedlings in sunny, cool spot.

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In most areas cucumbers can be started indoors in individual peat pots two to three weeks before the last expected frost. Seedlings will be ready to be transplanted outdoors in three or four weeks.

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iStock/Anna Kucherova


Eggplant is particularly difficult to grow. The seeds must be sown indoors at least eight weeks before the plants are set out, and the seedlings require sunshine and warm moist soil. To encourage germination, soak the seeds in warm water for 24 hours before sowing.

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Leeks take 130 days to mature, so the seeds should be sown indoors in most areas. Start them 10 to 12 weeks before the date of the last expected frost.

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Head Lettuce

Butterhead and cos varieties of lettuce can be started indoors about six weeks before the ground can be worked. They can be sown outdoors about the same time as loose-leaf lettuce

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iStock/Olivier Blondeau


Time to maturity for onions is considerable: three to five months from seed, although scallions can be harvested as early as two months after sowing.

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Peppers can be started indoors from seeds about eight weeks before the date of the last expected frost. Sow seeds in individual pots, placing three seeds, ¼ inch deep, in each pot. Keep the containers in a warm location-about 75 degrees.

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iStock/Anna Kucherova


Seeds should be sown indoors about eight weeks before the date of the last expected frost in your area. Sow them 1/8 deep in flats or pots, and when the seedlings are about 1 inch tall, transplant them to individual 3- or 4- inch pots.

Originally Published in The Reader's Digest New Illustrated Guide to Gardening