Wallaces Garden Center-Bettendorf-Iowa-Seed Starting Guide Part 1-mini greenhouse seeds

The Savvy Spring Seed Starting Guide: Part 1


It's planting season right now in the Quad Cities, which means it's the perfect time to start talking about seed starting. If you're ready to kickstart your garden off on a good foot, we'll show you how to prepare for optimal growth and reveal the secrets to starting a successful spring garden from seeds! 


Preparing Your Seeds

We know it's exciting to start your seeds after a long winter of waiting, but before you get your hands dirty, it's a good idea to make sure your seeds are primed and ready for their big debut. Here are some of our essential tips and tricks for preparing your seeds:

  • Check Indoor Temperatures: Ensure your indoor space maintains a consistent temperature range of 65-75°F for optimal seed germination. Investing in a seedling heat mat can help you maintain steady temperatures.
  • Use Good Soil: The best soil for starting seeds indoors is a well-draining, sterile mix, such as a blend of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite, ensuring optimal seedling development. We like Espoma Organic Seed Starting Mix. 
  • Watering: Keep your seed starting mix consistently moist but not waterlogged. If possible, water your seeds from the bottom to prevent disturbing their delicate roots. Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to seed rot and fungal diseases.
  • Soaking (If Applicable): Some seeds benefit from pre-soaking to jumpstart the germination process. If you're planting larger seeds like beans or peas, soak them overnight in room temperature water to soften their outer coats and encourage quicker germination. Most seed packets will outline the specific recommendations for you. 
  • Light Exposure: While most seeds don't require light to germinate, they will need ample light once they sprout. Place seed trays in a sunny window or provide supplemental light with grow lights to ensure strong, healthy seedlings. Aim for 14-16 hours of light per day for optimal growth.


Timing Your Seed Starting

Now that your seeds are prepped and ready, let's talk about timing! Knowing when to start your seeds indoors will make all the difference in the success of your spring garden, so here's a breakdown of when to start some popular seed types this March:


Tomatoes (Recommended planting date: March 10th - 15th)

When choosing tomato seeds, select indeterminate varieties such as Early Girl, Celebrity, and Better Boy, which are ideal for Bettendorf's climate. We recommend you start your tomato seeds indoors around mid-March, and maintain temperatures between 70°F - 80°F for optimal germination.

Peppers (Recommended planting date: March 15th - 20th)

Whether it's bell peppers, jalapeños, or sweet banana peppers you love, March marks the best time to initiate your indoor seeding. Aim for a consistent soil temperature of 75°F - 85°F to encourage robust pepper growth for your garden.


Broccoli (Recommended planting date: March 5th - 10th)

Begin sowing your broccoli seeds indoors in early March to ensure they have ample time to mature before transplanting into your garden. We recommend you keep indoor temperatures around 65°F - 75°F and maintain moist soil for successful germination and seedling development. Depending on the variety, you should see signs of growth in just 7-14 days!

Lettuce (Recommended planting date: March 1st - 5th)

Jumpstart your salad garden this year by starting your lettuce seeds indoors at the beginning of March. Maintain a cooler temperature range of 60°F - 70°F for optimal germination and early growth.


Cabbage (Recommended planting date: March 5th - 10th)

Opt for varieties like Early Jersey Wakefield and Red Express, commencing indoor seeding in early March. Aim for consistent temperatures around 65°F - 75°F for robust seedling establishment.

Kale (Recommended planting date: March 1st - 5th)

Initiate indoor seeding of kale varieties such as Lacinato and Winterbor at the beginning of March. Keep temperatures between 60°F - 70°F to encourage strong and healthy seedling growth.

Spinach (Recommended planting date: March 1st - 5th)

Kickstart your spinach crop by starting their seeds indoors during the first week of March. We love a few particular varieties for Iowa gardens, including Kolibri, Bloomsdale, and Space. Maintain a cooler environment with temperatures around 55°F - 65°F for successful germination and early growth.


Armed with these expert insights and practical tips, you're now well-equipped to kickstart your Bettendorf spring gardening adventure! Remember, successful seed starting is all about preparation, timing, and a little bit of patience. 

If you're looking for more guidance on how to start a spring garden from seeds, come see us today at Wallace's Garden Center for the supplies you need and the advice you can count on, and don't forget to check out next week's blog for Part 2 of our Seed Starting Guide, where you'll learn what to get in the ground and when!
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