Marching into Spring

Talking Plants

Jillian Patrie | University of Minnesota Yard and Garden Extension

March is here and that means time to start thinking about starting seeds indoors. Northern gardeners struggle with pesky late & early frosts that shorten our growing season, but there are a few things we can do to extend it. Starting seeds indoors is a great way to get a jump on mother nature. If you don’t have space to start your own seeds, purchasing seedlings from your local garden center works too, just make sure to watch the weather! Traditionally, the last frost date for Clay County and surrounding areas is Memorial Weekend (May 24-27, 2024). This is not a firm date, and we may experience a warmer spring and be able to get into our gardens sooner. However, we need to be prepared for cold weather. If you buy your seedlings, watch the temperatures and 10-day forecasts, tender plants such as melons, cucumbers, basil, and other cold sensitive plants do not tolerate temperatures under 50 F. Before planting in the ground, check the forecast or have a backup plan in place in the event of a late spring frost or prolonged cool temperatures (blankets, buckets, or other things to protect plants).
So, how do garden centers have tomatoes with flowers ready for purchase come April & May? Starting seeds in greenhouses in March & April is common practice, spring seeding allows gardeners to have jump on the growing season. When deciding on what seeds to start, look for vegetables that are suitable for northern growing regions they can give you an advantage. Many northern varieties of vegetables have a shorter day to maturity length (days from planting to harvestable fruits). You can also consider growing vegetables that are compact or have smaller fruits to maximize your harvest. You’re all in on starting seeds indoors now, but where do you start?
A bright light source (grow lights or a full spectrum light bulb, 12-16 hours of light is recommended).
A room temperature space, and ability to keep the soil temperature optimal for the types of vegetable seeds you are starting.
A good seed starter or potting mix.
****The back of the seed packet will provide you with all the information you will need to get those seeds on their way!

For more information on starting a garden and seeds indoors visit: or contact Clay County Extension Horticulture Educator, Jill Patrie at 218-299-7338 or by email

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