March 23 - Annie M. writes:

"I got impatient and started germinating cucumber, basil and squash seeds 2 weeks ago. Will they be too leggy if I keep them inside until June, or is there any way I can successfully plant them outdoors earlier?"

Short answer: Seed is cheap - toss the squash and cukes, and start some more in two months.

Longer answer: I'll never say "never", but in this case I'm going to come very close - at least with the cucumbers and squash. These plants are very touchy about transplanting, plus they are very vigorous growers - you're just not going to be able to keep them in those pots for very long. When I start squash in 4" pots, I only plan on them being there for maybe two weeks. Cucumbers are not quite as fast, but still - in a 4" pot, you're looking at less than a month (probably more like three weeks). What you're asking about is just not going to work, and unless you have an honest to goodness greenhouse there's just no way to successfully keep them alive and thriving outside right now either.

The basil is another matter. As long as you meet its light requirements, it will grow happily in a pot that can be kept indoors - say a 6" or 8" pot. A shop light with a couple of bright tubes (I recommend one "gro-lux" type tube and one high-output household fluorescent - both 40 watts) will do the trick. However I still recommend you plan a second sowing at a later date for summer.

Some years I do start cukes and squash indoors (in May!), and as long as I'm careful and timely they consistently transplant out successfully. It's just that they're very touchy about it - they don't like to be root-bound at all, and they don't seem to tolerate anything that inhibits their normal vigorous growth. So I'm not saying "don't ever use transplants for squash or cucumbers (or melons for that matter)" - just be very careful with them when you do.

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This page was last updated November 18, 2013