As I leaf through catalogs, peruse stock in the local nurseries and share ideas and plans for the upcoming gardening season, I face the reality that we have a relatively short growing season and have wondered how to get a jump start on my future produce.

Soaking and sprouting seeds have been options for years, though these methods of planting have been customarily used primarily for peas and beans. Who would think an Instant Pot could become a mechanism to quickly and effectively sprout seeds for your upcoming garden? Though not recommended for cabbage and tomato families — cabbage, kale, broccoli and cauliflower — this is an easy quick way to sprout seeds. Some of the most successful seeds to use this method are peppers, beans and peas.

The method is simple. Dampen four paper towels, fold in half and spread your seeds between the sheets. Put the paper towel into a zip-lock bag, sealed, and place it into your Instant Pot setting the pot on the yogurt setting. By having the moisture contained and a constant temperature the success on sprouting is high. The seeds will sprout in two to four days, depending on the crop you are sprouting. Even without an Instant Pot, you can follow the same concept placing the zip lock bag in a warm location, though it may take a few more days to see adequate sprouting. This will give you a boost in not only germinating, sprouting and planting your garden but you should see an earlier than usual crop. I usually allow beans and peas to sprout until tiny leaves show prior to planting into the garden and I have found they are up and growing within a week after sprouting seeds.

Anyone who has tried growing peppers from seed finds the germination time for those seeds can be up to three weeks. Though I haven’t tried this — yet — literature has stated that most will have a high success rate in sprouting.

Relaying sage advice from my mother over the years, one should never transplant corn. I tried sprouting and growing corn last year with a high degree of success. Sprouted corn was transplanted into individual pots in my greenhouse April 24. This corn, which was approximately 12 inches tall, was transplanted into the garden May 20. That night, we had wind that pushed the young shoots over. I propped up the seedlings with bamboo barbecue skewers and building up garden soil around the plants, approximately 2 to 3 inches high. Though the plants looked a bit sad for about a week, I lost none of the 70 plants I had planted. The old adage of knee-high by the Fourth of July was in reality thigh high and tasseling. We were eating fresh garden corn on July 20. Trial and error seem appropriate with experience, and this year I am planning on sprouting corn 10 days later than last year and doing some succession planting rather than having 70 plants producing corn at the same time. I didn’t expect my success to be that high.

Of course, one of the best sources for trying out new ideas is the University of Wyoming County Extension staff throughout the state. These people are experts in gardening in Wyoming and can offer great advice, having tried many different research projects in planning, planting and growing vegetables in our challenging Wyoming climates. The University of Wyoming website has all the contacts, their expertise and research papers, and I have found all that I have interacted with are not only professionals with a wide array of backgrounds, but fellow gardeners who will go out of their way to help.

Judy Jennings is a master gardener through the University of Wyoming Extension Office. 

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