As the snow begins to melt away, many of Edmonton’s gardeners are getting itchy-fingered to get out and play.

It is still too early to plant your garden, but you can always get started indoors with these tips from Jim Hole, owner of the Enjoy Centre in St. Albert.

Make the most of early bloomers

  • For Hole, crocuses are the first sign of spring — quickly followed by tulips
  • Take advantage of the early risers by planting them across your lawn, says Hole. They’ll green and bloom long before your lawn

A growing hobby

  • With Edmonton’s short growing season, many fruits and vegetables need a little leg-up indoors to meet harvest deadlines
  • More and more people are starting to plant seedlings indoors
  • The first rule of seeding is to grow what you actually want to eat, says Hole, and schedule accordingly
  • The second rule: be adventurous — what have you got to lose by trying to grow something new?
  • “I’ve killed a lot of plants in my day,” admits Hole, "A package of seeds is still cheaper than your average latte and lasts a lot longer.”

5 best seedlings to start indoors

  • Tomatoes: A classic for a reason, says Hole. Growing your own gives you access to dozens of varieties — and guaranteed freshness — throughout the summer
  • Celery: It takes a long growing season to produce perfect stalks
  • Peppers: Like tomatoes, peppers can be a little delicate in their early stages
  • Cole crops: Think Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower
  • Onions: Easy to start, easy to transfer

Lighting and soil considerations

  • Choosing the right soil is important, says Hole
  • For germinating: “Never use gardening soil — use a really high quality seedling mix that’s pasteurized.” 
  • Seeds germinate best when kept between 22 and 24 degrees — but as soon as they sprout, it’s time to cool them down
  • Hole says the best case scenario for sprouted seedlings is to put them under artificial light (6 to 8 hours per day) in a cool basement (around 15 degrees)
  • When you’re ready to move your plants outside, choose a high-quality potting soil
  • Insider tip: Add sea soil — made up of fish waste and organic matter — to your potting soil for best results
  • Do NOT use garden soil when planting on a condo or apartment balcony, Hole says

When (and how) to move seedlings outside

  • Plants started indoors often need a little toughening up before making a permanent move outside, says Hole
  • When a seedling starts to flower, it’s ready for slightly cooler temperatures (around 15 degrees)
  • Pick a protected spot out of the wind for your plant and leave it there for up to four hours per day
  • Cole plants can likely stay outdoors for keeps starting around the end of April
  • Warmer-weather plants (like tomatoes) can go outside in mid-May
  • Peppers do best when moved outside in late May

Notes for downtown farmers

  • Any “fruit-bearing plant” (i.e. tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers) needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day to thrive
  • If your balcony has less than that, give leafy vegetables (i.e. greens, lettuce, kale) a try instead