60January 4, 2012
Once we get by the beginning of the New Year, ever so slowly, spring fever begins to hit people. People want to grow plants. For many people, the first thing that comes to mind is starting some flower or vegetable plants from seed. This is a great way to cure spring fever. You get to plant some seeds, watch the seeds sprout and then see little plants grow practically right before your eyes.
You can run into some problems by growing plants from seed. The biggest mistake that people make is that they start the plants too early in the year. For the majority of the plants that you would start from seed, you only need to start the plants about 8 to 10 weeks before you are going to place the plants in the garden. In our area, the last average frost date in the spring is May 10 Th. We have had a frost as late as the last week of May. If you figure that these plants cannot be placed outside before the last frost of the spring, then you would not start these plants before mid to late March. If you start the planting of seeds too early, then you wind up with plants that are tall and spindly. By the time you can get them out to the garden, they really are not plants that will do well in the garden.
The other mistake that gardeners will make when starting plants from seed is that people will use either regular potting soil, topsoil or soil from the garden. The problem with using these soils is that they can carry a disease called damping off. This disease attacks the stem of the plant just as the plant begins to get some size to the plant. The stem turns black and the plant falls over and dies. To prevent this from happening, you want to use a soil called a seed starting soil. This type of soil contains no “dirt” and will help to prevent the damping off disease from happening to your plants.
Even if you use seed starting soil, you can still have damping off occur on your plants. This usually happens when you use containers or tools that have come in contact with the soil in your gardens. Once you take the plants outside and the containers come in contact with garden soil or if you use tools or watering cans that have come in contact with the dirt outside, you carry the damping off disease on these tools or containers. You can sterilize these tools or containers by washing them in a solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water. This solution will kill off the damping off disease. On the other hand, the containers and trays that you use to start the seeds are relatively inexpensive. If you buy new trays and containers each year, you will greatly reduce the chance of having diseases attack your plants.
Once we get closer to the time to start plants from seed, I will write about it in this column. In the meantime, you can start some paperwhite bulbs, Amaryllis or Hyacinth bulbs to help you to control that spring fever. You can also work on re-potting your houseplants or you can buy a few new houseplants.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.