53 February 24, 2007

We get a few warmer days and spring fever has hit many people. However, gardening outside is pretty much out of the question.

Early March is the time many people will start plants from seed. Even though I have touched on the subject before, I still get asked questions about  the how’s and whys of  starting plants from seed indoors.

Probably the most important thing to remember when starting plants from seed indoors is that you shouldn’t start the process too early in the season. Most plants need 8 to 10 weeks of growing time before you put the plants out into the garden. If the plants are going into the garden the end of May, then you need to start the plants about late March. If you start the plants too early in the season, then the seedlings are tall and floppy when you plant them out in the garden. If you want to start plants that are in the squash or cucumber family, you will need only 4 weeks for these plants to get to size. Rushing the indoor planting season will lead to poorer quality plants.

If you want the plants to grow properly, they need exposure to 6 hours or more of sunshine. This usually means having the plants in a south or west facing window. If you try to grow the plants in a dimly lit window, the plants will grow tall and thin and be very difficult to get to grow when you do set them out in the garden. If you do not have a window that will give you sufficient sunlight, then you are better off growing the plants under artificial light. I have heard all the arguments that regular fluorescent light will work just fine, but over time the people who use fluorescent grow lights seem to have plants that grow better.

Using the correct soil for growing plants from seed is also important. If you use soil from your garden or if you use a soil based potting soil, you will run into a problem with the plants “rotting off” where the plant stem meets the soil. This is a disease called damping off. It naturally occurs in soil. It is always best to use a soil mix that is blended for seed starting. The seed starting soils contain no “dirt ‘ and will in almost all cases prevent damping off from occurring. Keep in mind that you should also use clean containers for growing your plants. If the container have come in contact with soil, you may have enough contamination to cause damping off.
Well, that’s all for this week. Hope it helped. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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