Gardeners Grow Together Week 12, 2021: Cool Weather Starters



Welcome to my special gardening page for those of you who like to garden yourselves! Each week, I will make suggestions as to what gardening tasks we need to do every week during the growing season. It will help keep you on track--as well as myself!


To keep things simple, I am using the year's weekly number, Week #1 through #52 (example: the week of January 1 is Week #1), instead of specific dates.


So, come on! Let's get our hands dirty!


Cool Weather Vegetables

Cool Weather Flowers

Preparing your potting mix for cool weather seeds

How to start your seeds



Larkspur


It's time to start planting cool weather crops: flowers and vegetables.


Vegetables:


St. Patrick's day is the traditional day to plant root crops and greens outside. Root crops consist of onions, shallots, leeks, beets, turnips, carrots, parsnips and potatoes. These can be planted straight into the garden right now. Onions, shallots and potatoes come in "sets" (dry baby onion bulbs, or cut up "seed" potatoes) and are available in all garden centers and big box stores now. The rest can be started in the ground from seed, just follow the instructions on the seed packet. Root crops with long tap roots, like carrots and parsnips, do not transplant without their roots distorting or forking, so make sure you don't move or disturb them once they sprout.



Flowers:

Poppies and Salvia

If you haven't started your cool weather flowers by winter sowing, you should start them now, indoors, for earliest blooms. You can also direct sow outside right now, if you choose, but flowers will come a little later in the season.


Hardy Annual Flowers to plant now:

Ammi, Bee Balm, Bachelor Buttons, Bells of Ireland, Black Eyed Susan, Calendula, Clarkia, Corn Cockle, Feverfew, Larkspur, Love in a Mist, Pansy, Poppies, Sweet Peas, Snap Dragons, Lace Flower, and Yarrow.



Pansies

Preparing your potting mix for cool weather seeds:

To start your seeds you will need a seed-starting potting mix. It is different from regular potting mix in that it is very fine, well draining and is very low in nutrients. You don’t want a lot of nutrients in the soil to start seeds. It causes the green part of the plant to grow too quickly and sacrifices roots to do so. The plant will be weak and spindly. You want to start with a strong root system, and by using a low nutrient soil, the roots will grow bigger and stronger by searching for the nutrients. If you can’t find a seed-starting potting mix, you can make your own by mixing:


1 part regular potting mix

1 part peat moss or coconut coir fiber

1 part fine vermiculite (a light weight, kind of puffy, volcanic stone, available at all garden centers)


photo credit: parkseed.com

You will also need seed trays with planting cells, or 2” peat or plastic pots.


Clear plastic domes or clear plastic bags are needed, as well, to keep the humidity high to aid in sprouting.


If you want to be more environmentally friendly, instead of planting plastic trays, use expanding peat "pods," that you soak in water; peat pots; Dixie cups; toilet paper rolls; paper pots; or soil blocks. (I will cover some of these options next week.)


How to start your seeds:

  • Fill your seed trays or pots with seed starting mix.

  • Soak thoroughly with warm water.

  • Plant one or two seeds per cell or pot. Carefully follow the directions on the back of the seed packet for depth and light requirements for best germination.

  • Spray the top of the seeds and potting mix with a spray bottle filled with water to settle seeds.

  • Cover with the plastic dome, or clear plastic bag. If using a bag, insert chop sticks or sticks from the yard into all four corners and one or two in the middle of the tray to hold the bag above the seedlings.



  • Place in a bright, warm spot until the seeds sprout, then move them either under lights or to a sunny window sill. Lights are preferable, because each plant gets an equal amount of light. If grow lights don't work for your set up, make sure the dome is raised slightly or the plastic bag has some holes in it for ventilation. You don’t want to cook your baby plants in the sun! Also, turn trays daily to prevent plants from stretching towards the sun.

  • If growing under lights, place the lights only about two inches above the plants to keep them compact. Raise the lights as they grow. Regular, inexpensive, full spectrum (day light) florescent or LED shop lights are fine for seed starting.

  • Once seedlings have three or more sets of leaves, start watering twice a week with a very weak (1/8 strength) liquid organic flower or tomato (low nitrogen) fertilizer solution until planting out. All fertilizers are marked with numbers, like "1-4-5". Those numbers indicate the amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Pot Ash that is in the formula. Make sure the first number, Nitrogen, is a "1" or "0"; otherwise you will get rapid, weak stem and leaf growth with little root development.

Now, lets get busy! If you have questions, put them in the comments below!


~Lee Ann~

Valmont Valley Farm

Where Beautiful Magic is Always in Bloom



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