Starting Seeds

Lisa Ray, The Garden Advisor, Grow Something Today For Tomorrow

Can You Believe This Winter?

Winter has been unusually mild this year, so I’ve been tempted to sow seeds early.  But, the old farmer’s almanac tells me that spring crops can be sown indoors February 15-29 with February 21-29 being moon favorable dates.

Seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, and summer peppers and tomatoes may be sown on these dates.

Basic Requirements For Starting Seeds

All seeds have similar basic requirements for growing:  Containers, Soil, Moisture, Warmth, Light, and Food

Any container can be used to start seeds.  Plastic flats, small clay pots, peat pots and flats, paper cups, and many others may be used. 

Seeds need light, loose soil that does not host fungi that cause seedlings to rot.  Buy peat-based mixes that are designed specifically for starting seeds.  Never use garden soil.

Moisten the germinating medium before sowing seeds.  Keep the moisture in the medium of a wrung-out sponge.  Cover the containers with plastic wrap or clear top while the seeds are germinating.  Remove the cover as soon as seeds sprout.  Cut back on watering then too. 

     Many seeds need extra warmth to germinate.  In general, seeds germinate best if the soil temperature is around 75 degrees.  However, some cool-natured plants (like

lettuce) prefer 65 degrees.  Special heating mats can be used.

     Seedlings need lots of light to flourish.  Light-starved seedlings are leggy and pale, stretching toward the nearest light source.  The best way to provide adequate light is with fluorescent tubes.  Use a pair of 4 to 6 inch fluorescent shop tubes in a fixture that hangs from chains.  Hang the light fixture 2 to 4 inches above the plants.  This provides enough light for two full-size flats.

     When the seedlings show their first true leaves they are ready for a little fertilizer.  Water-soluble, all-purpose fertilizers or fish emulsion works fine when mixed at half the recommended strength and applied once a week. 

How To Sow Seed

     After filling the each pot with moistened soil, make a small hole in the center of the pot using a stick or pencil.  The depth depends on the size of the seed.  As a rule, the seed should be sown twice as deep as the size of the seed.  For example, a broccoli seed is small, so cover it ¼ inch.  A squash seed is large, so cover it 1 inch.

     Firm the soil around the seed and cover with plastic wrap or clear top, place in a warm light area.  Remove when germination occurs. 

What To Do With The Seedling

     Check in with The Garden Advisor next week for more ideas.

Plant Of The Week

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

Individual Brussels sprouts resemble tiny cabbages.  They are a late season treat, when frost has sweetened their flavor.  This plant prefers well drained and fertile soil, with adequate calcium levels; pH 6.0-6.8.  Brussels sprouts require a long growing season and are best when matured in cool weather.  Short season vegetables gardeners may set out transplants when they sow other spring crops; in the other areas, wait until late spring.  Space plants about 24 inches apart and keep weeded or mulched.  Pinch off top leaves to encourage side growth.  Rotate with non-cabbage family crops to avoid soil borne fungal and viral diseases.  Use row covers to deter flea beetle, cabbage worms, and root maggots, or use BT.  Keep well watered and grow in fertile soil to reduce vulnerability to aphids.  Matures 90-120 days, so harvest lower sprouts by breaking off the leaves below and snapping off the sprout.  Sprouts higher up will continue to grow.  Entire stalks can also be harvested, and sprouts can be frozen.  Sprouts keep for several weeks on the stalk if you pull up the whole plant and keep it in a cold place

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