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8 Seeds To Start Indoors In February In Zone 3

by on February 13, 2024
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As we near closer to the Spring gardening season, the urge to seed start sets in more. Though February is often bitterly cold, the sun is already out for longer and stronger than it’s been all Winter long. And that means there are some slow growing herbs, flowers and veggies you can start indoors in Zone 3. Here’s a look at 8 seeds to start indoors this month under grow lights!

8 seeds to start indoors in February in zone 3

First, I want you to know you certainly don’t need to start any seeds indoors this month. February is still really early for seed starting. Even if you wait a few more months before starting seeds, your Spring/Summer garden will absolutely thrive. Promise!

It’s easy to get excited as seed orders start rolling in, but it’s far too early to start most seeds indoors. Please don’t see this post and think “it’s time to start all my seeds.”

It is time to start some seeds, but not most.

So take your time! Don’t rush your seed starting. In fact, your seedlings will be stronger and more resilient if started later on and closer to your last frost date.

For example, if your seed packet says start indoors 8-10 weeks before your last frost date, start them closer to the 8 week mark instead. The shorter your seedlings need to live inside under grow lights, the better.

With all that being said, here are 8 seeds you CAN start indoors now in February in Zone 3 under grow lights and have great success with!

And if you didn’t start any seeds in January — be sure to read my post 15 Seeds To Start Indoors In January. You can still start any of those seeds this month! It’s not too late.

8 seeds to start indoors in February in Canada

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8 Seeds To Start Indoors In February In Zone 3

1. Celery & Celeriac

Celery is a slow growing veggie that has gained popularity with home gardeners over the last few years…I imagine because of the ever-growing celery juice trend!

I grew Tango Celery a few years ago in my Zone 3 garden and the flavour was far better than any store bought celery I’ve ever tried. Like, so refreshing and juicy!  Justin is pictured with our celery harvest above!

Truthfully, I haven’t grown it since because it took a lot of time, attention and continuous care. And I just don’t eat enough celery to invest my time in growing it (I haven’t jumped on the juice trend…yet). 

Celeriac is a root vegetable in the same family as celery and often referred to as celery root. The roots are big, white and have a rich flavour comparable to a parsnip or potato but with a slightly more bitter taste. It’s so tasty pureed in a soup. 

Celeriac isn’t a super popular root vegetable with Canadian home gardeners, but is a great addition to your garden for Fall harvests. 

Celery & Celeriac Seed Starting & Growing Tips For Zone 3
  • Sow seeds about 1/4” deep with a few seeds in each cell. Thin once seedlings have matured.
  • Seeds are extremely slow to germinate. Expect about 25-35 days before you see any growth.
  • Transplant in the garden after your last frost date. Celery does not like the cold, so if nighttime temperatures are dropping in the early Spring, cover with a cloche for the first few weeks. Celeriac is a bit more cold hardy but shouldn’t be exposed to hard frosts.
  • Be sure to feed your plants regularly throughout the growing season. I’d suggest top dressing your plants with compost once every 2-3 weeks.

2. Chickpeas

The first year I grew Kabuli Chickpeas I waited until late March to start the seeds indoors, which ended up being way too late. My plants didn’t start to flower until early August, resulting in a pretty small chickpea harvest come Fall. 

The following year, I started my chickpea seeds indoors in February and got a better yield on chickpeas and my plants were bigger and bushier.

Chickpeas require 120+ days to maturity, which our short growing season here in the Canadian Prairies just can’t offer unless you start the seeds indoors in February.

I love growing chickpeas in my garden because they’re unexpected and a great conversation started.

But here’s the truth — it’s easier to buy chickpeas from the grocery store than it is to grow them in your garden. They take a long time and the yields are quite small. Whereas a can of chickpeas in the grocery store is $0.99! It’s a conversion I don’t quite understand (lol), but something I want to be honest with you about!

Regardless, chickpeas can be grown in a Zone 3 garden!

Chickpea Seed Starting & Growing Tips For Zone 3
  • Sow 1 seed per cell about 1 1/2” deep.
  • Plants will get leggy and tall after growing indoors for a few months. Be sure to continue to “pot-up” seedlings into larger containers inside so they can adequately grow.
  • Transplant outside after your last frost date. Chickpeas get wide and bushy so be sure to provide 1/2’ between each plant.
  • Either harvest pods when green and eat fresh, or let the pods dry and turn brown on the plant before harvesting for storing.

3. Hot Peppers

February is THE month to start your hot peppers indoors in Zone 3.

My rule of thumb is the hotter the pepper, the earlier I start it indoors. In fact, Valentine’s Day is usually the date I choose to seed my hot peppers (a fiery day to seed a a fiery food, am I right?). 

There’s so many great hot pepper varieties to choose from. So many! I’ve really only scratched the surface, growing maybe a handful of what’s available.

A few varieties I love are Spicy Slice Jalapenos (pictured above), Scotch Bonnet and the extremely hot Ghost Chillies

For more detailed tips on seed starting, growing and harvesting peppers in short Canadian growing seasons, we have a full episode of The Grow Guide Podcast covering how to grow both hot and sweet peppers! 

Hot Pepper Seed Starting & Growing Tips For Zone 3
  • Sow one pepper seed per cell about 1 1/2” deep
  • Peppers germinate faster with bottom heat, so put your tray on a heat mat if you have. If not, be sure to keep them in a warm space with a humidity dome on top.
  • Pinch back your peppers 2-3 times before transplanting them outside to encourage bushiness and more growth. It makes a big difference and will result in more productive plants.

4. Goji Berries

Yes, you read that right — you CAN grow goji berries in a Zone 3 Canadian garden.

Though they sound exotic and tropical, goji berries actually do really well as a perennial in Zone 3 as long as you protect them during the harsh winter months.

The Shanghai Express Goji variety does exceptionally well in cold climates.

Here’s the catch — goji berries only produce fruit in their third year. However the yields are significant, producing up to 6lbs of fruit per season. I’m still waiting for the plants I started in 2019 to bear fruit. But if you’re a patient gardener, they’re worth a shot! 

Plus, goji berries are full of health benefits, packed with antioxidants, amino acids and vitamins. I feel like they’re going to be the superfood berry in a few years…mark my words!

Goji Berry Seed Starting & Growing Tips For Zone 3
  • Sow 2-3 seeds per cell. Plant 1/4” deep. Seeds are quite small so do not need to be planted very deep.
  • Once seedlings are established, they will start to get kinda scraggly and rough-looking. Pot-up them to a larger container so they can spread out.
  • I have kept my young goji berry plants in 4 gallon containers for these first few years, which I bring inside our greenhouse over winter to provide some extra protection from the cold. 
  • Goji berries grow better in poor soil conditions, so avoid fertilizing but be sure to water consistently.

5. Echinacea

Echinacea (or coneflower) is a gorgeous perennial flower hardy to Zone 3. It produces blooms throughout the entire growing season, which can be consumed for medicinal purposes as well as used for cut flower bouquets.

I don’t have much experience growing echinacea, but it is a flower I see used often in Manitoba landscaping so I know it does do well even in our harsh Prairie winters.

I do have plans to try growing Cheyenne Spirit Echinacea this year, so I’ll keep you posted!

Echinacea is also said to be drought tolerant and a very low maintenance plant! 

Echinacea Seed Starting & Growing Tips For Zone 3
  • For blooms in year one, start seeds indoors in February.
  • Sow seeds on top of the soil surface, covering with a small amount of soil to keep moist.
  • Once plants are established, transplant into well drained soil in a full sun location of your garden.
  • Echinacea is susceptible to fungus if leaves are wet, so water from below or at the very root of the plant.

6. Luffa Sponge

Luffa sponge is having its moment right now! It seems everyone is growing luffa sponge and I don’t blame them — it doubles as a vegetable and sponge for the shower.

If you harvest them young they can be eaten as a squash, but if you let the fruits mature they turn into a fibrous luffa sponge. So strange and wild.

I haven’t grown luffa sponge myself as they are notoriously difficult to grow (especially in Zone 3), but Kristen at Shifting Roots from Saskatchewan has a fantastic post detailing her strategy and experience growing luffa sponge in a cold climate. 

Luffa Sponge Seed Starting & Growing Tips For Zone 3
  • Plants require 200+ days to reach maturity (!!), which is why they don’t typically do well in a short Canadian growing season.
  • Seeds are very slow to germinate, sometimes taking up to 30 days before any growth emerges.
  • Once plants are established they need support to vine up, so add a small wooden stick to the containers when plants are small and then size up to a larger trellis once planted outside. 
  • Wait to transplant outside until night time temperatures are sitting above 10°C consistently. 

7. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are a brassica that many Canadian gardeners seem to struggle growing (myself included!).

They are slow growing, susceptible to being eaten by flea beetles and require shade during the hottest months of the growing season. A bit of a high-maintenance vegetable! But they are such a gorgeous plant to grow and can do really well in the right growing conditions.

There are tons of great brussels sprouts varieties to choose from that will do well in a cold climate and short growing season like we have here in Canada.

For a mid-summer harvest, start your brussels sprouts seeds indoors in February in Zone 3.

For a late Fall to early Winter harvest, you can wait and start seeds in May.

Brussels Sprouts Seed Starting & Growing Tips For Zone 3
  • Sow 3-4 seeds per cell about a 1/2” or so deep.
  • Once seedlings put on their true leaves, separate seedlings into individual containers so they can continue to space out and grow.
  • When transplanting in the garden, be sure to provide lots of space between each plant — at least 2’.
  • Brussels sprouts benefit from having a support or cage to grow up. Tomato cages work well!
  • Use a row cover to protect plants from flea beetles and to provide some sun protection.

8. Chives

Chives are easily my most fav Zone 3 hardy perennial herb. My chive plant has survived winter after winter of harsh, cold temperatures and is still the very first plant to turn green in my garden each Spring.

I love the edible flowers chive plants put on in early Spring. I usually use them to infuse vinaigrettes and oils! After that, I’m harvesting chives all season long and well into Fall.

I suggest starting chives from seed in February so you can enjoy a substantial harvest in your first season. Starting chives early also ensures your plant is well established to survive its first Winter.

Chive Seed Starting & Growing Tips For Zone 3
  • Sow several seeds per cell on the soil surface, covering with a little bit of soil to keep moist.

  • When chives are planted densely together, they will grow in grass-like clumps. Keep the “clumps” together until you’re ready to transplant into the garden.

  • Spread out chive plants in the garden so they have lots of room to get wide and bushy. I have about 12” between my plants.

  • In late Fall, prune back your chive plant so only a few inches of growth appears above the soil surface. Mulch heavily with straw or leaves to insulate.

You Can Also Experiment With Early Seed Starting In February With These Veggies

  • Tomatoes
  • Bell Peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Lettuces
  • Broccoli/Cauliflower

If you have a backyard greenhouse and/or hoop house that you want to plant some more tender veggies in early in the Spring (before your last frost date), you can experiment with early seed starting for the above veggies.

Just remember — seedlings get stressed when kept indoors for too long. So while you CAN start these veggies in February for a head start on the growing season, be sure you can get them outdoors sooner than later. 

Timing is everything when it comes to seed starting!

Be sure to read my post, The Ultimate Seed Starting Guide For Canadian Gardeners where I break down step-by-step seed starting instructions and provide links to all my favourite tools and supplies.

Happy seed starting!

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