47February 15, 2018

We are now in the middle of February. I have some good news for you. It is time to start gardening. No, you are not going to fill the window boxes with geraniums. No, you are not going to plant the tomato plants in the garden. However, you can plant some seeds indoors and start some of your vegetable plants.

If you are starting vegetable plants from seed, it takes about 8 weeks to get plants to the size that can be transplanted into the garden. As many of you learned last spring, the weather can be fickle.

For a number of years in a row, you could have planted many of your vegetable plants in mid May. Last year, we had a mid May frost that killed all those frost-sensitive plants. The frost-sensitive plants would include tomato, pepper, squash, cucumber and eggplant. Traditionally, these plants are set out around the end of May. If you are going to start these plants from seed indoors, you do not want to do so before the end of March.

With that being said, what vegetable plants can you start indoors now? Traditionally, you can set out broccoli, cauliflower, head lettuce, cabbage and kale in mid-April. If you do the math, starting those plants 8 weeks in advance means that you can plant the seeds indoors now.

When you start plants from seed indoors, it is important to use clean containers for growing the seedlings. If the containers are new, then you are all set. If you use old containers, they should be washed in soap and water. The containers should then be placed into a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. This solution will kill off any of the fungus diseases that may be on the old containers. Rinse off the containers and you are all set to use them.

It is also very important to use seed-starting soil. This is a specially blended soil that will not cause a disease called damping off. Damping off will kill seedling by causing the stem to rot and the plant to die. Seed-starting soil allows the roots to grow properly and for the plant to grow strong stems.

Once you get your plants seeded, place the containers in a sunny window or you can place the containers under a grow light system. A steady supply of strong light will allow your plants to grow strong stems and prevent them from being weak, floppy plants.

Once those seedlings have sprouted and they have 2 sets of leaves, it is time to start fertilizing your plants. You will be using a diluted amount of fertilizer. If you used the same concentration that you use outside, you would damage the roots of the plants. Diluted fertilizer solutions can be used every 10 days or so. This will help to produce a strong healthy plant.

Well, that’s all for this week. Hope you had a Happy Valentine’s Day. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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