Vegetable seed starting is under way. In early February, I began with artichoke seeds and then planted cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, broccoli, spinach, and lettuce. Cool-season greens are some of the first to go in the ground, and in more northern regions, like the Mid-Atlantic where I live, artichokes need an early head start. That's why I start them first.
Indoor seed starting is the way to go with early crops. (Detailed instructions on how to start seeds indoors can be found here.) Seedlings need to be given plenty of light and must be upgraded as they outgrow their cells or pots. Before they go outdoors, they must be hardened off for at least a week before being planted outdoors. I plan to plant my greens out in late March, if weather allows.
When it comes to starting more southerly crops like artichokes, choosing the right seeds for your area is also essential. Cultivars like the green 'Imperial Star' and purplish 'Opera' are bred to produce heads in the first season, while most other selections need at least two seasons before flowering. Because artichokes won't survive our cold winters, single-season varieties are our only option. My favorite fast-flowering cultivar is 'Imperial Star'.
The next seeds I will start will include annual flowers, herbs, and warm-season crops, like peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant. These will be planted in mid March. By late April, my squash, cucumbers, and melons will be planted in 4" pots, and May is the time when I directly sow my first plantings of carrots, beets, and beans in the ground.
Every seedling seems to bring spring a little nearer...