Start Seeds the Easy Way—Outside
Find out what to get in the ground now for optimal success
Cosmos will get their first blooms in about 50 days.
Seed-starting indoors can take a lot of work: artificial lights, conscientious watering, and steady surveillance before you can transfer seedlings outdoors. Not sure you're up for it—or time's no longer on your side? Many plants are suitable for direct sowing in late spring, and some even prefer it. Read on for what to get in the ground now for optimal success.
Know what—and when—to sow. Direct sowing is the best option for fast-growing plants or those that have delicate root systems that don't like being moved. First, determine the safe sow date for your area by visiting the National Centers for Environmental Information. While some seeds, such as cold-hardy leaf lettuces, can be planted a couple of weeks before the last frost date, most seedlings can't survive a cold snap.
Prep smart. Many seeds are ready to plant straight out of the package, but some need to be soaked first to jump-start germination, as indicated on the seed packet. Soak seeds in warm water no more than 24 hours prior to planting to help prevent rot.
Plant properly. Follow the package directions for depth. For seeds that can be sown directly on the surface of the soil, press them down firmly so there's less risk of their being washed away. If seeds need to be covered, make a divot with your finger that's about three times as deep as the seed's diameter, sow, then gently cover it with soil.
Related: Grow an Edible Flower Bouquet
Follow through. Use a watering wand or the broad rose of a watering can to keep seeds moist without drowning them. Thin seedlings as directed on the packet, pinching out ones that are struggling or are too crowded. Once seedlings have produced a second set of leaves, you can start fertilizing.
Sure bets for direct sowing:
• Sweet pea
• Leaf lettuces
• Summer squash
• Sweet corn