Welcome to my special gardening page for those of you who like to garden yourselves! During the growing season, I will make suggestions as to what gardening tasks we need to do. It will help keep you on track--as well as myself!
So, come on! Let's get our hands dirty!
"Cool" Veg and Flowers
It's March 11th and we just had a major snow storm here in Colorado. But you know what? It's time to start “cool season” veg and flower seeds in the house! I know it seems crazy, but these plants actually need the cold to grow successfully, and for the earliest harvest and best quality, we need to start them now, inside, and then plant them outside so they can get a touch of frost to make them grow better. And, lets face it, we're all ready for some color in our lives after a long, dreary winter!
Below is a list of seeds to buy now. You can use last year's left over seeds, but you won't have the best germination rate. Fresh seed is best. Most seed packets are marked with the date. Make sure they are marked for the 2022 season. Planting early in the house takes up a lot of room, so you don't want to waste pace with seeds that won't germinate. However, if you have a lot of old seed that you just can't bring yourself to throw out, there is an option below that might work for you that won't take up a lot of space, at least initially.
These vegetables need to be grown in cool conditions or they will either bolt and go to seed too quickly, or get bitter and unpalatable. Most salad greens are “cool” plants. *Note*: All of these can be sewn directly in the garden, if you prefer, but I would wait until at least St. Patrick's Day, March 17th; but, you will get a much earlier harvest if you start them indoors. They won't germinate until the soil is sufficiently warm enough.
Most root vegetables are cool weather plants as well, but any long root vegetables, like carrots and parsnips, are best planted directly in the garden. They don't like having their roots disturbed and they will distort from transplanting.
“Cool Flowers” are some of my favorites. These hardy annuals are quick to germinate, and the first to flower in the Spring. These flowers bridge the gap between Spring bulbs, early Summer perennials, and heat loving annuals. Most will quit blooming when it gets hot, so you can pull them and make room for the tender, heat loving annuals later in the season.
Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan)
Dacus (False Queen Anne's Lace)
Nigella (Love in a Mist)
Some of these flowers do best if planted directly in the garden, like Poppies, and Nigella. Neither of these like to be covered with soil. They need light to germinate, so just sprinkle them on the surface and forget about them. I have even thrown Poppy seeds out in the garden on top of the snow! They love it! Check the back of the seed packet for directions.
What you will need to start your plants indoors:
Seed Starting Mix. Seed starting mix is a soil-less mix of peat or coconut fiber and vermiculite or perlite. You can buy it already bagged or make it yourself with equal parts each. It is very light to allow for good oxygen flow (very important!) and has little or no nutritional value at all. DO NOT use potting soil, especially anything with fertilizer added! Fertilizer rich soil will cause the seedlings to grow too quickly, get leggy and be very weak in the end. Every seed has all it needs packed in its tiny shell to feed the baby plant until it produces its first “true” leaves. After that, we will feed with a very diluted, balanced liquid fertilizer, once a week, until they are planted out.
Plug Trays or Flat Trays. I like to use plug trays for larger seeds that I can handle easily, and just flat trays for very fine seeds that I can sprinkle in rows, then transplant to plug trays later when they have sprouted and are easy to handle. Planting in rows is also a great option for using old seed that may not germinate well. There is nothing more frustrating than having empty plug cells taking up room on your window sill.
Humidity Domes, Plastic Wrap, or Clear or Thin White Plastic Bags. Use anything that will keep the moisture in and let as much light in as possible. However, be sure to remove the covering as soon as at least half of the seeds have sprouted to prevent disease.
Labels. Very important! Trust me, you won't remember what anything is if you don't! I like to mark them with the name, color, date of sowing, the height of the mature plant and plant spacing in the garden. That way, I don't have to go hunting for seed packets for info when I go to plant out in the garden. You can use plastic or wooden labels, popsicle sticks, or even white plastic knives in a pinch!
A Sunny South Window or Artificial Light Set Up. If you use a window, be sure to rotate your trays a quarter turn every day to prevent the seedlings from stretching towards the light. It will make for weak plants. If you want to use a light set up, you don't need a fancy grow light system. “Grow” lights are meant to bring plants to flower indoors and can be very expensive. A simple LED "daylight" shop light will do the trick to grow seedlings. Try to find ones that have a wide reflector for wider light distribution. Keep the light fixture no more than three inches away from the tops of the seedlings to promote very compact growth. Move them up as the plants grow. LED lights don't produce heat, so you don't have to worry about burning the baby plants.
Water. Water from below whenever possible to prevent washing your seeds away and to make sure that the soil is completely saturated. Fill the tray half full and wait about a half an hour, then empty out any extra water. You don't want them sitting in water. Lift the plug tray and if it's heavy, it is watered sufficiently. If the top of the soil is still dry, you may pray it with a fine spray to moisten it. That is important for tiny seeds sown on top of the soil. Then cover with a humidity dome or plastic wrap until germination occurs. Be sure to remove them at that time to prevent disease or burning of the seedlings. And, check the trays at least once a day to make sure they don't dry out.
Seeds! Most seed packets will have all the information you will need on the back of the packet. Like planting instructions, how long to germination, plant height, how deep to plant, etc.. If it doesn't, or isn't clear to you, don't hesitate to Google it!
In a couple of weeks, I will write another blog on how to “harden off” your plants and get them ready to plant out in the garden. Yes! We will be able to do it that soon! Yay!
Also, it's not too late to "Winter Sow" outside! Check out my blog post to learn how! Most seeds are cheap. Try some and see how it works for it you! Don't be afraid to experiment.
Now, lets get busy!
If you have any questions, put them in the comments below!
Valmont Valley Farm
Where Beautiful Magic is Always in Bloom
If you would like to join in supporting my flower farm and receive beautiful bouquets weekly, please sign up for my Flower CSA!
I would love to hear your comments on my blog posts. Please leave your comments below.
If you find this information inspirational or helpful, I would love it if you would share it with your friends!