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They best way to grow vegetables with some character is to grow them yourself from seed. So, grab a seed catalog or hop online for the largest selection. It will take some planning, and you are going to have to start really early. But it will be worth it.

Based on the schedule below, purchase some seed trays and some starter soil and start sowing, placing a couple of seeds per slot and thinning after germination.

The general rule of thumb is to plant the seed at a depth twice the length of its longest side. And always mark what you’ve planted. Moisture, heat and light are the three factors you need to manage: heat to germinate, light to grow and plastic wrap to maintain moisture.

One trick is to place the seed tray on top of the refrigerator. The heat from the compressor travels up the back and keeps the trays warm enough to germinate.

Once you see the seeds sprout, they quickly are going to need a great deal of light. Lack of proper light will force the sprouts to get really tall and thin and fall over — leggy, as gardeners call it.

Fluorescent lights placed close to the seedling for 12 to 14 hours per day will do the trick. If the weather is warm, they can be placed outside in direct sunlight until they harden off.

Follow the schedule below on when to start seeds indoors and plant outside. The schedule is based on the region’s average last frost date of May 15. But if there’s a late frost, be ready to protect transplants until June.

Jan. 15 (16 weeks before last frost):

Brussels sprouts — start seed indoors

Feb. 15 (12 weeks before last frost):

Onions, cauliflower and leeks — start seeds indoors

March 15 (eight weeks before last frost):

Broccoli, cabbage, kale, peppers and tomatoes — start seeds indoors

April 15 (four weeks before last frost):

Squash, cucumbers and zucchini — start seeds indoors

Kale, leeks and onions — transplant outside

Carrots, lettuce, Swiss chard and peas — plant directly in ground

May 1 (two weeks before last frost):

Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower — transplant outside

Corn and potatoes — plant directly in ground

May 15 (after last frost):

Cucumber, peppers, tomatoes, squash and zucchini — transplant outside

Bryan McArdle is manager of entrepreneurial development at EDAWN and a geeky gardener whenever the sun is shining. Email him at geekygardener@renomagazine.com.

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