February 19, 2014
The snow has piled up so much that it is hard to imagine that we will be able to dig in the garden any time before July. However, the snow always melts and we are all surprised by how quickly it will disappear when the weather warms in March and April.
Around mid April, we usually can plant broccoli, cabbage, spinach and lettuce in the garden. Broccoli and cabbage plants need about 6 to 8 weeks from when they are seeded until they are ready to set out in the garden. If you do the math, now would be a good time to start these plants in the house. Spinach and lettuce can be started in the house or they can be seeded directly into the garden. If you start them in the house, you probably only need 4 to 6 weeks for them to be of sufficient size to plant in the garden.
When you start flower or vegetable plants indoors, you need about 6 to 8 hours of sunshine coming through a south or southwest-facing window. If the plants don’t get enough sunlight, the plants tend to grow tall and tend to flop over. This creates a plant that struggles once it is in the garden. The alternative is to set up a light fixture that is suited for growing plants. We have 2 foot and 4 foot long fluorescent fixtures that we sell in the store. These lights put out a spectrum of light that is very close to the spectrum of natural sunlight. By growing plants under these lights, you will get a nice compact plant. For the seeds to sprout properly, they also need to be kept warm. Temperatures in the mid to upper 60’s should be sufficient to get the seeds to sprout. If your house is colder, you can use a heating mat to help with the sprouting of the seeds. The seeds are placed in their containers and then the containers are set on the heat mat. The mat warms the container and this, in turn, helps to speed up the germination of the seeds.
You will also need to use a soil called a seed starting soil. This type of soil contains no “dirt”. Seed starting soil has peat moss in it as the basic ingredient of the soil. Using a peat based soil helps to prevent a disease called damping off. This disease attacks the seeding and causes the seeding stem to turn black at the soil line and ultimately the seeding falls over and dies.
If you are going to use any containers from last year for potting up your seedlings, make sure that the containers are washed and disinfected before you pot up your seeds. If those containers came in contact with soil from the garden, you could be infecting your seedlings with the damping off disease.
Well, that is some of the basics on how to start your plants from seed. If you have any other questions stop by the store and we can walk you thought it.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.