sp791“In every gardener there is a child who believes in The Seed Fairy”- Robert Brault

Every winter starting in January the seed catalogs start coming in the mail and the next one is prettier than the previous one. Many offering different varieties, heirlooms, exotic and organic. Seed starting isn’t for everyone, but it allows the gardener to enjoy gardening indoors during the colder months. When we start to see those seedling sprout, we get so excited and check multiple times of day. Seed starting offers the gardener many rewards too, you can be sure that your plants have been raised organically if you choose to do so. You will need to do some research and figure out which plants germinate better than others. Some of which I have found are listed below. When to start your seeds depends on where you live, timing is everything. You need to know when your frost-free date in the spring is in your area. Many crops can be directly seeded outdoors after the danger of frost is over, but can also be started indoors.

  • Vegetables- Tomatoes, Peppers and Onions should be started 6-8 weeks indoors before frost-free date.                                                                                                                                                            Basil, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collards, Kale, Lettuce, Spinach and Swiss Chard should be started 4-6 weeks indoors before frost-free date                                                                                                   Squash, Cucumbers, Melons and Pumpkins can be started 3-4 weeks indoors before frost-free date                                                                                                                                                                     Plants such as Corn, Beets, Peas and Mustard can be started outdoors after frost-free date
  • Flowers: Annuals-Alyssum, Cosmos, Marigolds and of course my favorite, Zinnias can be started 5-6 weeks indoors before frost-free date Perennials- Shasta daisies, Columbines and Hollyhocks should be started 6-8 weeks indoors before frost-free date.
  • Seed Starting- Select a work area, close to a water supply and where you have plenty of room. Have all your equipment ready to go: seed starting containers or trays, soil mix or starting medium, watering can, labels and seed packets.images-18 You can start seeds in almost any container that will hold 1-2″ of starting medium and won’t become water logged. You can use open flats, pots or peat pots which can be planted right into the ground and the roots are not disturbed. There are many seed starting systems available through seed catalogs, local garden centers and websites. I have used the one from Gardeners supply company gardeners.com and have been very happy with it. You want to use a starting medium, not garden soil. You can purchase this already made or make it yourself by combining 1 part vermiculite or perlite with 1 part peat moss. Moisten the planting mix before you fill the containers, using warm water, give time to allow it to absorb, squeeze some in your hand and make sure it feels moist but doesn’t drip. Space large seeds 1″ apart, you can trim out the weaker seedlings later. For medium seeds 1/2-1″ apart and tiny seeds 1/2″ apart. Use fingertips to place in pots. Cover the seeds with starting medium at 3 times the thickness of the seed, then label them so you know which is which. I use popsicle sticks that I stick right into the soil. Set your flats or pots in a shallow container of water and let it soak until surface is moist, do this regularly. Cover with clear plastic, put in a warm, sunny south facing window. If you have grow lights then you don’t need the sunny window, or a green house is even better! When your seedlings develop their first true leaves, transplant into a nutrient rich potting mix, combine equal parts compost and vermiculite. I tend to then plant them into the peat pots with this soil which is larger and the roots are not disturbed.         images-19                                                                               Come summertime you will have your garden filled with your gorgeous plants! Rows of Zinnias welcomes my garden.images-20

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