Spring planting

I think I ask this question every year. But I get new and good answers. This will be my 4th year growing outdoors. I will be mostly growing in 10 gallon cloth pots. Some smaller. I also will still be trying to grow in the ground, a few plants anyway to see what happens. When I moved, I moved to a place with really crappy soil,clay… I been trying different things to make the soil better, but we will see what happens. A friend of mind has a spot he wants to gorilla grow that gets TONS of sun… but the soil is clay, so we will see what he does to make the soil better.
Anyway, I was thinking of starting my seeds now for the first or 2ed week of May planting. I am about 75 miles west of Chicago, and even tho it is snowing, I know the plants need about a 8 week head start. If I start the seeds now, I am looking at about 11 weeks before they can be planted. I figure with about a week to get the seeds going and planting, thats a week off.
Than by week, 9 or 10, they can spend most of the day outside since the weather is getting nice, but the nights are still chilly.
My line of thinking is this, 4 years ago when I started growing, I followed something close to this, and yes I had VERY good garden soil, and had 7ft plants. I had a very good crop that year.
2ed year, I started later but planted at the property I have at now, and it was a hot summer, but didnt live here yet, and it was a total failure, yes the soil sucked.
3ed year. Mostly 3-5 gallon pots, and the plants were 3-4 ft tall, the ones in the ground with stuff added, did not do as well.
So Year 4, mostly all 10 gallon pots. With a few plants still in the ground, trying to get the soil right, so those are testing plants…hoping they do ok.
Another weird thing. Year 1 I used solo cup, and transplanted., year 2 solo cup…year 3, I used peat pots and the plants seemed to grow slower at first.
so I am going back to solo cup. Any thoughts on that?
any thoughts on starting my plants within the week?
Thank you for all your comments!

Just germinated mine for 3rd year…have had 95% plus germ rate with this method…soak seeds in room temp water for 24-36 hours. Plant in very small container 1/4” Deep in jiffy soil starter mix…use grow dome with lid. I like using a heating pad under it. Keep humidity 70-80 % and temps at 70-75. Lights (Fluorescent) on for 24 Until germinated…love this method


When germinating seeds I stick to a wet napkin. I put it in a dark warm place and normally a few days later they have tails. I do different things for indoor grows verses outdoor. Indoor they go directly into their forever homes and outdoor go into one gallon pot until transplanting time. That gives the roots pleanty of space. I only start my plant a month before I put them in the ground that way they don’t get too big before transplanting. I had on outdoor plant in a 15 gallon pot that was root bound. I plan on at least a 20 gallon pot this year. My plants in the ground turn into monsters. I use supersoil with great results.
I read gysum is good to help aerate hard clay soil. I haven’t used it yet but have a grow site that will get that treatment this spring.

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I’m a complete novice, and definitely learning from my early mistakes. I bought seeds and tried the paper towel method. Though I was putting seed in and hitting it with cold water straight from the tap!