I was asked by a reader, when is a good time to start seeds and whether I was too early by starting seeds in January?
I live in the Los Angeles area, and I have noticed over the last several years that the weather warms up in the March time frame. Also, in March, I start seeing Tomato plants (both Cherry and regular) for sale in nurseries in my area, along with other vegetable plants. You can even buy Winter Melon plants for sale at San Gabriel Nursery in March.
So my strategy is to have seedlings ready to transplant outdoors in March. Last Year, I had Cherry Tomato seedlings in the ground by February 21 (see this blog entry), which is a few weeks early. But, I had Cherry Tomatoes ready to eat 3 months later (see this blog entry).
It typically takes about 6 weeks under Grow Lights for my seedlings to be big enough to transplant. So, if I start seeds on January 1, I would have seedlings in mid February. A bit early, but this gives me margin for error. As you see in this blog entry, the Cherry Tomato seeds that I started on January 1, did not germinate and I had to restart new seeds.
If you don't have Grow Lights, you can start seeds on a windowsill that faces the Sun most of the day. The most important thing is that the seeds stay warm. Most seeds need to be in soil that is around 75 degrees F in order to germinate. You can buy a heating mat, if you have trouble keeping your potting mix at the right temperature.
I find that if I keep my seeds starting kits right under my Grow Lights, the heat from the Grow Lights is sufficient to warm up the soil.