57March 10, 2010

After a beautiful weekend, people were itching to get out into the garden. We had a few people looking for vegetable plants. They were disappointed to find out that despite the weather, it was early to be setting tomato plants into the garden.

If your green thumb needs to get a workout, now is the time to be starting your vegetable plants and annual flowers from seed. You will, of course, need to be starting the plants indoors. Despite the nice weather, we will be getting more nights below freezing.

To be successful at growing seedlings indoors, you will need a growing area that receives sunlight for the better part of the day. This would mean growing your plants in front of a south-facing or west-facing window. If you do not have those growing conditions, you can always use fluorescent grow lights to provide the intensity of light necessary for proper growth. You will also need to grow the plants at temperatures around 68 degrees or higher during the day and lower 60’s at night. If your home is cooler than this, you can use heat mats to provide the warmth that your plants will need.

When growing plants from seed, it is important to use a seed starting type of potting soil. Young seedlings are prone to a disease called damping off. This disease causes the stem of the seedling to rot at the soil line. Once this happens, you would have to restart your plants. Seed starter soils are sterilized to prevent this problem.

There are many types of containers you can use for growing your plants. As long as the container has drainage and the container is large enough to provide adequate growing space until you set the plants out in the garden, then pretty much anything will work. I have seen people use coffee cups and inexpensive flower pots. One thing to keep in mind is that any container that has come in contact with soil outside or has been previously used to grow plants must be sterilized before it is used for growing plants from seeds. Failure to sterilize the containers can lead to conditions that will cause damping off. To sterilize containers, wash off any traces of soil and disinfect them in a solution of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water. Soak for about 15 minutes and then thoroughly rinse with clear water. There are many types of better growing containers that you use. We have many varieties available in the store.

You will need roughly 8 to 10 weeks from starting your plants from seed until you set the plants out in the garden. If you want to start any of the vine crops i.e., squash or cucumbers, you will need only about 4 weeks from seeding until you set them in the garden.

Keep in mind that plants grown in the house cannot be taken directly outside and placed into the garden. The plants need to be gradually exposed to the strong wind and sun. This can be accomplished by putting the plants outside for about 15 minutes the first day and then bringing the plants back into the house. Over the next week or so you will be gradually leaving them out for longer periods of time each day before bringing them back inside. This process would start sometime around the 3rd week of May. Normal planting time for most frost sensitive vegetables and annual flowers is around Memorial Day.

That, in a nutshell, is the basics of starting plants from seed indoors. As always, feel free to stop by the store with any additional questions.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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