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Lawn and Garden

Seeding Now for Spring

by Andrew Jozwik
Johnny Appleseed Greenhouses

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02/01/2014 - Even though February is cold in Wyoming with the ground still solidly frozen outside our greenhouses, spring has already sprung in a big way. Four of our houses are a carpet of green, not too many flowers yet though. Many of the plants would like to have some flowers right now, but we pull them off to stimulate their green growth.

I guess being a plant in a commercial greenhouse is a lot like being a beauty pageant contestant. Everyone sees you looking so beautiful on your big day, but they don't realize how hard the road to get there was… days full of endless makeup applications and walking practices, not to mention all the dietary restrictions and workouts.

People shopping in our greenhouse don't realize that those plants have had their flowers pulled, their limbs cut, their roots ruffed, and many other hideous things done to them to make them look good on their big day. You might think I am mean for doing those things to them, but I think of myself more like the old boxing coach in Rocky. The plants may not always like what I'm doing to them, but I won't let my plants go out on stage with their canckles showing.

In addition to abusing our current plants we are also planting seeds by the thousands this month. If you are thinking about sowing some of your own seeds now is the time to gather everything up and get them started. All seeds have varying germination times ranging from one week for many vegetables to up to a year for yerba mate'. (Yerba Mate' is a South American plant used to make a drink like coffee with the added benefit of speeding up your metabolism. Anyone who has seen me lately can attest that my metabolism could use a good kick in the butt right about now!)

Most of the flowering crops we grow germinate in 2-4 weeks, so most of what we are planting now is going into our medium sized pots, our pack plants will be seeded later. When you are planning your seeding schedule be sure to time them so that they will not be in your house any longer than necessary to get them to the transplant size you want. If they stay indoors for too long they will stretch. Stretch is a four letter word around the greenhouse that means that someone left the seedlings in the germination chamber for too long. It is caused by the plant looking for light in low light areas, and it causes their main stems to be too long and spindly.

For most plants getting stretched doesn't hurt them, other than they can be a little floppy when you are transplanting them. To avoid this sow your seeds in the window with the most light you have in your home. In addition spin them regularly to keep them from getting lopsided.

My daughter was pretty impressed with her science fair radishes this winter because they stretched to the east and were lying over. I spun them around and in less than three days they were standing straight up. I was pretty impressed with how fast they were able to change their position.

Since the seeds need to be raised in the most light you can find it is important to check the moisture level on the surface of the soil every day. If it dries out even for one day it could be game over for newly germinated seedlings. When you water, it just needs a sprinkle to keep the surface moist. Humidity domes help with this immensely. We have those at our store, along with seeds and all the other supplies, just in case you were wondering.

So, for example, if you are planting some hot peppers for your garden and you want to transplant them May 15th and if germination is two weeks and seedling time is two weeks, it will take about 2-2.5 months to have them garden ready. They need about a month to get to any real size and about a week to harden them off. Hardening them off means letting them live in an area that is in direct sun for part of the day and not letting them get any frost on them at night. Right next to the house is a good spot for this so that they are a little protected. So you would need to sow the seeds March 1st.

If you have kids starting seeds in the house is a fun project. I go to work with plants all day and I still have fun doing seeds at home with my kids. Maybe that's because I make them do all the work, but that's good for them anyway. My kids love it when I wake them up and tell them to go take care of their plants, or goats, or chickens, or cows, or dogs, depending on what the pet of the month is at that time.

Good luck on your seeding at your house, and if you have kids don't feel bad when they act like you're the devil for making them take care of their seedlings; they will thank you when they are showing off the finished product to their friends.

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