I know that you Gardeners out there are wearing your seed catalogs thin already, pouring over the pages, making this year's crop selections. For those of you who are contemplating starting the growing season early, here are a few things to remember: Using your own transplants allows you to grow varieties that may not be commonly found with your local nursery. You will also have the freshest, healthiest transplants this spring. Not only that, you will have a sense of self sufficiency and you will avoid those food contamination scares that are becoming so frequent.
First, map your garden site. Decide how many plants you will need. It is easy to get carried away with seeds.
You can grow your seeds in almost anything. I recommend the peat trays. They are environmentally responsible, as you can plant them directly into the ground when spring is here. Be sure that you allow for drainage, whatever you use. Over watering is the easiest way to kill a plant at any stage of growth.
Plant about 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. You can find the last frost date for your area in the Farmer's Almanac.
Start with fresh potting soil especially blended for seedlings, for best results. The last thing you want to do is expose your seedlings to contaminated soil. Plant the seeds according to the package directions and water accordingly with a fine mist. If you plant the seeds one or two to a cell, you will not have to transplant them until you take them to their final resting place.
You will use a fluorescent grow light placed just above the trays. This will encourage healthy and strong growth and keep the seedlings from being 'leggy'. Keep daytime temperatures around 65-75 degrees and above fifty in the evenings, weather indoors or out in a cold frame or greenhouse.
Just before you are ready to transplant to the garden, 'harden' the seedlings by placing them outdoors during the day for about a week. The seed pack will tell you when it is time to plant the seedlings outdoors.
The last suggestion that I have is to visit your library or book store. Find a book about growing vegetables or ornamentals. A book will warn you about common diseases for each plant and tell you how to take care of it all year long. You will be glad that you did. Your vegetable yield will be better and ornamentals will thrive.
Share your gardening stories! What suggestions do you have for your fellow Gardeners?