As the cold months start to warm up and spring fever sets in, most of us start looking forward to getting back into the garden. But what do you do when the northern summers are too short for your favorite plants?
Consider starting your seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before you are ready to transplant them to the garden. Vegetables such as tomatoes do very well starting indoors, and this gives them a boost to compensate the shorter growing months in the Valley.
Also, be sure to look for varieties that mature faster as well as the ones that are meant to harvest more than once in a growing season. This will help insure at least one harvesting before frost hits in the fall.
You can find a variety of seed starting kits at many local retailers, as well as quite a few D.I.Y solutions to starting your seeds. Your options range from full growing stations and shelving units, to simple space-saving window sill trays. Seeds can even be started in basic every-day containers in all shapes and sizes that have been thoroughly cleaned and dried. Decorate them, paint them, or even let the kids help for a family project that everyone can enjoy. This offers an ecofriendly option that recycles the various containers found around any household. When using plastic containers, be mindful of the type of plastic as some chemicals can be absorbed through the soil and into the growing plant.
Don’t try to use incandescent lights for your new seeds. Lighting needs to be 3 to 4 inches above the young plants as they grow, and the heat from any incandescent bulb will burn them at such a close distance. There are many options for lighting that include fluorescent and LED choices. While some specific grow bulbs can range in price from reasonable to expensive, having a bulb designated to growing plants is not always necessary. Almost any fluorescent bulb that produces a cool white or daylight spectrum will allow your plants to grow. Regardless of the bulb used, the height must be maintained as the plant grows to prevent spindly stems, so be sure to make your lighting source adjustable so it can be raised over time.
Try to avoid watering your seeds from the top of the container as this can cause diseases and fungus, as well as shifting or dislodging your seeds before they can become fully rooted in the soil. Always start your seeds in moist soil to allow them to germinate, and follow up with watering them from the bottom rather than the top. Many commercial starter kits have a tray that allows bottom watering, but when using various other containers or D.I.Y options, consider the use of a secondary shallow container such as a saucer. You can also use the bottom couple of inches from a larger container, cut and equally decorated to match what your seeds are in. Using a reservoir method like this allows the soil to wick up the moisture as needed, and as long as you keep the reservoir adequately filled, the seeds will not dry out and it will help prevent damage.
Hint: If your seedlings are becoming too spindly, put a small oscillating fan blowing across your plants on a very low setting for a few hours a day. This helps strengthen and thicken the stems by tricking the plants into thinking they are growing in a windy environment.
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!