Start the New Year by Starting Seeds

By Kathryn Courtney
 Starting seeds for spring vegetables and flowers is surprisingly easy. Most gardeners biggest problem is starting the seeds too late. Tomato and pepper seeds should be started in mid-January through mid-February. This is very important as it gives the seedlings time to develop strong root systems. Healthy root systems make for strong transplants and more vigorous plants. Other vegetables such as squash, eggplant and cucumbers can be started now too. Early spring flowers such as petunias, violas, cosmos, and larkspur also should be started now. You can start your seeds indoors or outdoors depending on the weather.  Spring seedlings will freeze so they need to be protected from the cold.

   Plant your seeds in clean containers. Cowpots are an excellent choice for seedling containers as they can be planted pot and all into the garden, or you can use small cardboard boxes, eggshells, newspaper pots or any small clean pot. The only requirement is that the container drains well. Poke holes in any seedling pot that doesn’t have drainage. If reusing a container from a nursery or elsewhere, wash it and then sterilize it with a very mild bleach solution. Use a sterile germinating mix such as Ladybug Germinator to give your seeds a good healthy start. At the nursery, we have also had success with Maas organic soil and worm castings. Put about an inch of worm casting material on top of the Maas organic in your container. There are also many different types of soilless mixes that can be used. Once you have your containers ready and filled with seed starting mix use a pencil to poke holes about 1/4″ deep into the mix. When starting


my seedlings, I use 4″ cowpots with 3 holes in the soil for each pot. This gives you 3 chances for success with each seedling container. Cover the seeds, lightly with dirt and use a mister to water your seeds. Check your seed package for the correct seed planting depth for each type of flower or vegetable. Some seeds require light to germinate and some don’t.The ones that require light should be barely covered with soil. A little Healthy Harvest Ladybug fertilizer with actinovate in each pot helps to prevent damping off or rotting of your seedlings. Adding Mycostim to your seedlings will also give them a boost of beneficial fungi. These fungi help in the growth of the plant’s root hairs. Put the seedling pots in a warm place with a strong light source. A sunny window is great. If you don’t have a window, a portable shop light with an LED or fluorescent bulb works well.  Sometimes our weather is so warm, even in January, that you can successfully start seeds outside in the bright sun. Try making an instant greenhouse using clear plastic cherry tomato or strawberry containers to start seeds in. Plant the container as described above and put them, with the lid closed, in direct sun. This will heat up the soil in the container and keep it warm at night. Of course, if it gets cold, you will need to bring your little greenhouses in. Keep your seeds moist to help germination. After my seeds germinate and get their first real leaves, I take them outside unless it is freezing. The sun provides for much healthier seedlings. Transplant your seedlings in your garden after the chance of frost has passed. Lots of gardeners take a gamble at this point. If you do plant too early, protect your seedlings from a freeze with Insulate cloth.



  Starting plants from seed is a very rewarding experience. You get to watch the plants grow from the very first leaf sprout to the final fruit or flower. Planting from seed also gives you a vast selection of flower and vegetable types that are not available as transplants. Try a new type of tomato or a new flower color for an old favorite flower. At Maas we have 3 very good seed suppliers with a wonderful selection of seeds. Our garden specialists can answer any questions you might have about your seeds. Now is the best time to pick your seeds as we have all the varieties available. Check out the seed section at Maas nursery and start planning your spring garden.