Time to plant your garden!
Do I hear you saying, “I can’t garden yet. It’s still too cold.” Or, “My garden is outside. I’m supposed to stay inside.”
Now is actually the perfect time to get a head start by gardening inside your home. You don’t have to wait until your local garden nursery opens for the season. Instead you can plant those seeds yourself! Bringing nature indoors helps battle cabin fever and provides a great project for you and your kids.
What You Will Need:
- planting containers
- large clear plastic bag
- large tray or cake pan
Here’s a breakdown of why each of these ingredients are important, as well as some tips on how to properly use them:
Whether you plan on a flower garden, a vegetable garden or a container garden, the choice of seeds is important. Some seeds need to be planted very early (I’m looking at you, bell peppers). Other seeds are more easily planted in the ground after the temperatures have warmed (zucchini, many root vegetables and flowers like zinnias). However, now is a great time to start many types of flowers, vegetables and herbs inside.
For best results, choose soil designed especially for starting seeds. There are many commercial seed starting mixes, usually composed of vermiculite and peat (with very little actual soil). However, last year I used dirt left over from house plants that had passed on, yet most of my seeds still came up.
3. Planting Containers
You can choose almost any container (like the bottom half of an empty milk carton). If you want to avoid damaging the roots during transplanting, however, I suggest compostable seed trays specifically made for this purpose.
You can also use egg cartons. Or make your own containers from newspapers (great project to do with the kiddos).
You got this.
While not necessary at the very beginning and not necessary everyday, it is necessary. Hopefully, you have a sunny window, but you can get similar effects from a grow light.
How to Get Started
Start by filling the seed trays at least three-quarters full with soil or seed starting mix. Keep the project neat by using a tablespoon to transfer the soil to the seed tray.
Now add moisture. Seed starting mixes are often very light-weight. If you attempt to water from the top, the water may pool or create its own ‘canal’ straight to the bottom.
I like to allow the soil to soak moisture from the bottom up by placing the soil-filled seed trays in a large cake pan and then gently pouring water into the pan. This method takes more time, but I’ve found it to be more effective and less frustrating.
When the soil is moistened, plant as directed on the seed package. Different seeds have different planting requirements.
Once planted, the seeds only need soil, moisture and warmth. They do not need sunlight YET. The seeds can sprout in darkness and do not need sunlight until after they develop leaves.
The next essential ingredient is time. Garden seeds aren’t like the magic beans from “Jack and the Beanstalk.” They are not going to sprout overnight. Some may sprout in a couple of days; others may take more than two weeks to break the soil.
When they do sprout, the first leaves that develop are commonly called seed leaves, although the scientific term is cotyledons. These leaves grow directly from the seed and initiate the process of photosynthesis…so NOW your seedlings need light.
One danger of putting your delicate seedlings in direct sunlight is that the soil will dry out. You can avoid this pitfall by loosely covering them with plastic or placing them inside a clear plastic bag.
In effect, you are creating a mini-greenhouse. The plastic covering conserves moisture and will also conserve or intensify the heat received from the sun. Both will help your plants grow.
Maintain and Enjoy
Continue to keep your plants moist and warm, and watch as “real leaves” develop in a week or two.
Your plants will be ready to transplant when they have at least 5 or 6 real leaves AND outside night time temperatures are consistently above freezing.
If you watch and water your plants, in a couple of months you will be able the pick ripe tomatoes and cucumbers and toss them with lettuce (from the store or your garden). Top that salad off with some tasty balsamic vinegar and enjoy your homegrown bounty.
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