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Lawn and Garden

Starting Seeds Early

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03/01/2009 - It's hard to believe that it is already March and another spring is just around the corner. Every year around this time, in addition to planting the crops for the greenhouse, I start thinking about what I want to plant at home. Most years my plans are a lot larger than I have time to get planted. For example last year I planned to grow the largest crop of hot peppers that this town has ever seen. Unfortunately we ended up moving to a different house so 160 or so habanero, and jalapeno peppers never made it into the ground. Instead they stayed in the flat they were sown in and never reached their full potential. We still got a lot of peppers off of them, but nowhere near the amount I was thinking of when I was planning last spring.

This year I think I will just try to get a good mix of vegetables, throughout the season, rather than trying to set any records. Whether you are interested in growing a garden to see how big of a pumpkin you can grow, or to save some money on produce, or just to spend some more time with your family, growing things is one of the most fulfilling things you can do with your spare time. No matter what your reason for growing a garden this year, now is the time to start planning.

The first, and most exciting part is planning what you are going to grow. The best places to start getting ideas are, at a greenhouse, or in mail order seed/plant catalogs. The next part of the planning process is to decide what you have room for and also the items you are going to start from seed, vs. the ones you would rather get from a greenhouse. Certain crops such as habanero peppers are long season crops, and will perform better for you if you get them from a greenhouse or start them early in your house. If there are 100 day+ crops on your list, they fit into this category. You can usually find the maturity time on the planting instructions section of the seed packet, or in the catalog's description.

If you are going to start some seeds early in your house there are a few things to remember. The first is when to sow the seeds. To decide when to plant, subtract the number of days to reach maturity from the date you would like to harvest. For example if you would like to harvest a 105 day pumpkin on August 1st, than it would need to be sown around April 15th.

The second, and most important thing to remember is that seeds need moisture to germinate, maintaining a very high humidity level around the seed at all times during the germinating process is key to success. To do this, water your seeds thoroughly when you plant them, and then cover the flat you use with a humidity dome (these are available at most greenhouses), or with tightly fitting clear cling wrap. If there is enough moisture in the soil and the cover's seal is tight enough on the flat, condensation will form on the inside of the cover. This condensation is a great way to gauge the humidity level in the growing area. If it goes away, be sure to check to make sure the soil is still moist enough. If in doubt give the soil a good sprinkling of water. It is a good Idea to leave this cover on the flat until the seedlings are Ĺ -1 inch tall.

The third thing is to make sure that your seedlings get the right amount of light. Most seeds will germinate in relative darkness, but having more light will make them grow faster, and more compact. Beware placing the seedling flats in direct sun while the humidity cover usually will burn your seedlings up. The best place for germinating most crops is in bright indirect sunlight. Once the cover has been removed the young plants can be acclimated to full sun. Starting plants in your house is a good way to extend your growing season. Next month I will give you some ideas to help you get the ground outside ready to plant. I hope you have good luck with all your planting this year.

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