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Around Our Town...March Gardening Calendar

Starting Seeds Indoors

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03/01/2006 - by Helen Scott

Starting your own seeds for a garden is not only a rewarding experience but also a great way to help a gardener's passion deal with the windy cold days of the first of the year.

You will need several things for starting your own seeds indoors: a southern sunny window, clean containers, seeds, a growing medium, patience and perseverance. The seed-starting season usually runs more or less from February 14, Valentine's Day, to St. Patrick's Day, March 17.

New seedlings ideally should have 12 to 16 hours of light per day, which means artificial lighting of some kind. The artificial growing lamps should be placed a distance of 6 to 12 inches from plants. There is twice as much light six inches away as there is at 12 inches.

Buying peat pots at your garden center is a much easier way to

accomplish the task of starting your own seeds, however, you can plant in egg cartons, trays, cut-off milk cartons or even eggshells as long as they have drainage. Gardeners can use sterile growing mixture available at all garden centers to start their seeds. These mixes usually have enough incorporated fertilizer for the first few weeks of plant growth. Later on, one can add water-soluble fertilizer at rates of one tablespoon per gallon of water, applying once a week or less.

The "Cornell recipe" or a "Simple Mix can be used by gardeners who wish to make their own seed starting mixture. The Cornell recipe includes 4 quarts of shredded peat moss, 2 teaspoons of ground limestone and 4 tablespoons of 5-10-5 fertilizer. The Simple Mix is equal parts of loam, clean sand or perlite, and moist peat.

After planting, your planted seeds should be kept evenly moist but not overly wet. Too much moisture and cool temperatures will cause the seeds to rot instead of germinate.

The first two leaves that form on the plant are not true leaves, but food storage cells called cotyledons. Once the first true leaves have developed, it is safe to start fertilizing as previously described.

Soon, the plants will need to be "hardened off" in preparation for planting in the garden. "Hardening off" is the process whereby tender

plants are set outdoors for short periods of time for several days in a protected place for exposure to the outdoor climate. Do not rush this process it is critical for healthy plants. After the plants have been acclimated to outdoor life, they are ready for their permanent home in the garden. Water well the area where you are going to plant the seedlings. If possible plant them on a cloudy day with little wind. Dig a hole twice the size of the current seedling pot and deep enough to be able to cover the root with a quarter of an inch of soil. Press the soil firmly around the roots. Be sure to continue to deep water the seedlings so they do not develop a shallow root system and can withstand the long hot summer days to come.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Glen Whipple, Director, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071. Persons seeking admission, employment, or access to programs of the University of Wyoming shall be considered without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, political belief, veteran status, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status. Persons with disabilities who require alternative means for communication or program information (Braille, large print, audiotape, etc.) should contact their local UW CES Office. To file a complaint, write the UW Employment Practices/Affirmative Action Office, University of Wyoming, P.O. Box 3434, Laramie, Wyoming

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