Gardening from Seed
Sitting in your warm house with no gardening chores to do, you get itchy to start growing plants for the spring garden. Stadler Nursery has seeds for you to sow this spring. This year we are carrying Cornucopia Seeds from Renee's Garden. Renee's Garden is known for their unique and unusual seeds and the varieties we have at the nursery will make you eager to get growing. Included in our selection are old-fashioned flowers, edible flowers, and specialty mixes. To insure that you get the seeds you want we suggest you shop early. However, don't make the common mistake of starting your seeds too early.
What's that? You have never started seeds before? You think starting seeds is too much of an obligation? If you like to grow plants we can assure you that starting seeds can be one of the most rewarding aspects of gardening. Starting your own seed allows you to grow varieties not available as plants in garden centers and you will have the satisfaction of growing this year's garden from scratch.
Our average frost-free date is April 20th. You will generally need six weeks to sow, germinate and harden off your new plants. Count backward from April 20 these six weeks. This is when you should start your seeds. There are exceptions though. Cool weather plants such as broccoli and cabbage can be set out earlier and can be started earlier. Consult individual seed packets for the number of weeks you will need and use the method above to calculate your sowing date.
To sow your seeds, you can use sterilized pots, Styrofoam cups, cans, milk cartons cut off at the top or any container that will be able to withstand moisture. Punch a hole in the bottom of the container for drainage. Fill the pots with a soilless mix. We carry Schultz and Espoma Seed Starter soilless mixes. Do not use soil from the garden. Garden soil becomes compacted after a few waterings and there are many organisms in your garden soil that you will not want to infect your seedlings with. A soilless mix is light and sterile, giving your seeds the healthiest start possible. Moisten the soilless mix before you add it to the pots. You will need to stir the water into it as if you were mixing a cake batter. If you do not moisten the soil first, it will be very difficult to water your newly sown seeds. Instead of soaking in, the water will roll off of the surface of the mix and seep down the sides of the pots, leaving the center of the cups or pots dry. Fill your containers with the moistened soilless mix.
Now you are ready to sow or plant. Small seeds need only a thin covering of soil; larger seeds need to be planted more deeply. Consult individual seed packets for proper sowing depth. Label your pots as you sow, using masking tape and indelible marker or labels. Now place your pots in a container to make watering and transportation easier. A cookie sheet or a new, inexpensive kitty litter box work well. Next, water your seeds in and cover them with clear plastic wrap. The plastic will seal in the moisture your seeds need to germinate. Do not let the cups or pots stand in water. This will encourage fungal problems. You can place the pan on top of your refrigerator where the seeds will be warmed from underneath. This step is not essential but it will speed germination.
As soon as sprouts appear, remove the plastic and move your plants to a bright light source. Without adequate light, your plants will become weak and spindly. A windowsill with a southern exposure works well. Give pots a quarter of a turn everyday to insure your plants get light from all sides. A florescent tube placed 1-2 inches above seedlings is an ideal light source. Leave the light on for 14 hours a day and your plants will not need the daily quarter of a turn.
As your plants grow you may need to repot them to keep stems stout and strong. Tomato plants will benefit greatly from this practice. Repot these plants so the soil comes up to the 1st set of leaves. Roots will develop along the stem under the soil making your plants sturdy and strong. Continue watering your seedlings and feed them once a week with a 5-10-5 fertilizer diluted to half strength.
About 2 weeks before you are ready to plant your new garden you must harden off your tender pants. Hardening off means acclimating your young plants to the stresses of outside conditions. Direct sunlight is strong and will burn tender new growth and temperature changes will be stressful. Do not skip this important step. You have put a lot of TLC into your plants and missing this step will significantly decrease yields or may even kill your plants. To harden off your plants, wait an extra day or two between watering and stop feeding. Don't let your plants dry out so much that they wilt. Next, start moving your plants outside during the day, making sure they are shielded from strong afternoon sun. Don't forget to water. Bring your plants inside at night. Expose your seedlings to more light and temperature changes each day. By the time of your planting date your seedlings will be ready to go into the garden.