Fri March 4, 2011
Garden Report

Now is the Time to Start Seeds for Spring

I saw the first blooming crocus of the spring in a sunny south facing garden this week.  Then we went to the Nursery for seeds and waited in line to get to the seed racks.

We bought seeds to start inside like tomatoes, peppers, basil and statice.  We also bought early veggies for outside.  It’s still too early to sow seeds outside but the soil is warming up. 

The soil needs to be at least 40 degrees for peas to germinate.  Lettuce and salad greens need about the same soil temperature.  After a few sunny days and above freezing temperature nights, it’s amazing how fast the soil warms. 

A specific environment is necessary to start seeds indoors.  These special conditions can be created in any room in the house.  Build a germination area in the warmest, sunniest part of your house.

Seeds need a consistent soil temperature to sprout.  Most warm season seeds, like tomatoes, begin to grow when the soil is around 65 to 70 degrees.  Peppers like it warmer.  Other veggies germinate when it’s cooler, like cabbage and broccoli.  Consistency is the key. 

Seeds need constant moisture.  If they are too wet, no air is available in the soil and the seeds rot.  Keep the soil moist.  Covering the top of the tray with plastic creates a humid, moist environment.  The cover can come off once the seedlings are up.

A general rule is to plant seeds to a depth 2 or 3 times their width.  Smaller seeds just don’t pack enough energy to push up through too much soil.  It’s important that shallow planted seeds are watered gently and not allowed to dry out. 

Most seeds don’t need light to germinate.  Lettuce is one exception.  But once the seedling pokes through the soil, they love light.  A cool, white florescent light hung a couple of inches over the seedlings will keep them from growing leggy.      

Seeds sown by the row in trays will need to be transplanted.  They can be gently lifted out of the tray with roots and some soil intact.  A sharp wooden pencil or dibble is a helpful tool.  Replant the seedlings into individual containers.  It’s a good time to thin the herd.  Transplant the strongest seedlings for the healthiest crop. 


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