With spring around the corner, it is time to plan your garden. Now is the time when you should begin choosing the varieties of vegetables and flowers you want to grow this year.
There are many exciting new varieties to grow this coming season, and now is the time to make your seed purchases from all those catalogs you have received this winter.
Remember, you can give your garden a head start by planting these seeds yourself and growing your own transplants.
February is the time to start your seeds, since many vegetables and flowers need 4-6 weeks to develop before they are ready to put into your garden.
Because outside temperatures are still too cold to allow seed germination, you will need to create your own mini-greenhouse to provide heat and humidity for your seeds. Fear not; it isn’t complicated or expensive to do this.
There are many ways to create the right environment for your seeds. Plastic containers, empty 2-liter soda bottles, and even an old hanging basket and dry cleaning bag all will work very well to create your own transplants.
For plastic containers, you will need removable lids. For soda bottles, simply use scissors or a cutter and cut around the diameter of the bottle at approximately the middle. Don’t cut the top completely off, though, but leave it connected by about an inch of plastic so the top will swing open and closed.
For plastic containers and bottles, be sure to poke drain holes in the bottom of the container to prevent the seedlings from damping off. To use the hanging basket, fill it with soil, plant your seeds and water.
Place the container inside the dry cleaning plastic bag with the hook going through the hanger hole at the top of the bag. Hang the container and tie the bag under the bottom to seal it.
Hang the basket near a sunny window until your seeds sprout and then remove the bag. With all these containers, the key is to create a warm and humid environment to promote germination.
In addition to the containers mentioned previously, egg cartons are also ideal, particularly for starting vegetables, because they are individually spaced and also label easily.
Simply wipe the empty carton clean and poke several small holes in the bottom of each cup for drainage. Toilet paper and paper towel rolls also make great containers, especially for larger plants like tomatoes.
Just cut the rolls to the desired size and fold in the ends or line with a coffee filter; fill them with soil and plant your seeds.
Remember that there are many, many options — plastic milk jugs (treat them the same as soda bottles,) juice cans, yogurt containers, etc. You are limited only by your imagination!
What type of medium should you use to fill your containers? Choose any pre-packaged seed starter mix from your local garden center; if you prefer to make your own, use equal parts of fine-grade peat moss and vermiculite.
Simply fill your containers with a depth of at least two inches of soil, plant your seeds, water and cover. Place in a warm environment — your laundry room or garage are perfect — and check for germination. Be sure to remove the lids once your seeds have sprouted to prevent a disease called damping off, caused by too much humidity.
To provide your plants some light, it is fairly easy to rig up a shop light over your plants once they have sprouted. Any shop light or even long desk lamp will do, depending on how many seed containers you have.
You can construct a frame using PVC pipe and set the light so it is approximately 18 inches above your plants. This will provide them enough light so they grow straight and tall until it is time to place them in the garden!
All of us have old containers that can be re-used as mini-greenhouses. Order some seeds, choose your containers and medium, and get set for an exciting new season of gardening.