“The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.” – Gertrude Jekyll
By Karla Ficker
One of my favorite things about gardening is choosing what to plant each year!
Before you order or purchase your seeds, it’s always a good idea to plan out what you’re going to plant and think about where it will go in the garden. Keep in mind that the sun will shine in different parts of your garden at different times of the year, so you’ll want to make sure you choose seeds that will grow into seedlings adaptable for your conditions. (Tip, do your garden layout on a piece of paper and then file your layout away for reference for next year’s garden).
There is a special magic when you start growing plants from seeds, and experience watching a small seed grow into a beautiful living plant. There are also practical benefits such as choosing varieties beyond local availability, saving money and getting a head start on the growing season. And it’s a great way to involve the kids!
It is important to know how early to start seeds indoors. You’ll have to figure out when the last frost usually occurs where you live. Then, count backwards from the average frost date the number of weeks it will take for the seeds to turn into seedlings. The majority of seeds should be started six to eight weeks before the last frost date, however it can vary. Check the seed package to determine the number of weeks.
The Growing Season – USDA Hardiness Zones 3-6
“Last frost dates range from end of April along the coast to early June in the mountains. First frost dates tend to be from early September to the end of October. The frost free growing season ranges from 120 to 180 days. Memorial Day is the traditional planting day for annual and vegetable gardens in many areas. In fall the growing season can be extended into November and December, especially along the coast, but the short days don’t provide the needed energy for new growth on annuals and vegetables. Perennials survive best in areas with cool summers and snow covered winters. Ice storms and heavy snows can cause limbs to break on trees and shrubs.” Information from https://www.garden.org/regional/report/description/full/14
When choosing your seeds, check to make sure the seeds were packaged for the current growing season. Then you’ll need to gather your supplies for planting the seeds. You can use wide flat containers such as margarine tubs or recycled nursery cell packs. It is a good idea to label the containers, as many seedlings look similar. Clay is not a good choice for starting seeds as plastic pots will retain more moisture needed for germination. Be sure to sanitize the containers by soaking them for 20 minutes or more in a 10% bleach solution. Next, air-dry the containers and then poke holes for drainage in the bottoms. Or, you can purchase jiffy pots at any gardening store. They handy and will the do the job just fine.
Fill the containers with a good seed starting mix, which can be purchased at a local gardening store. Lay the seeds on the surface, then spread more seed starting mix on top to cover the seeds thoroughly. Press the seeds down into the seed starting mix, you can use the bottom of a glass to do this. Gently spray the surface with water until moist. Cover the containers with plastic wrap to keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate.
Be sure to keep the seeds warm by putting them in a warm location or on a seed heating pad. Ideal temperatures for germinating seeds are 65-75 degrees. Check the seeds daily, and once they germinate, remove the plastic wrap to provide fresh air. Be sure not to overwater the seedlings. Rotate the seedlings on a daily basis to keep the stems strong and growing straight. After the seedling develops leaves, you can start to feed them on a
weekly basis with a ½ strength liquid fertilizer. Once the seedlings are hardy and strong enough, they will be ready to transplant in your garden!