Dreaming of Spring: Seed Starting

Frederick County Master Gardeners

Mild winter, right? Before we know it, we gardeners are thinking beautiful garden thoughts: compost, veggies, flowers, worms, seeds . . . And, because we can't help it, we forget that the last frost date for Frederick is usually around the end of April and we start seeds indoors.

Try these four points for successful seed starting:

  1. Plan ahead: Decide which vegetables you would like to grow, and which you will be starting from seed indoors. Some plants may be purchased fully grown. Other seeds will be planted directly into the garden. Use local nurseries and seed catalogs.
  2. Research: Find a good reference book, go on-line (HGIC); read the catalog description and the seed packet. Check out www.growit.umd.edu for all the information you will need. You must know when the seeds should be started; temperature and light requirements; depth of planting the seed.
  3. Get planting: Put similar seeds with similar requirements in one tray. Create a labeling system and a calendar for organization. Use seed starting soil with peat pots, or peat pellets. Mist or water lightly, keeping soil moist, but not wet. Provide adequate light 12 - 14 hours a day. After true (second set) of leaves emerge, treat with a diluted soluble plant food.
  4. Transplant: Move into larger pots as plants develop true leaves - watch for gnats, mites and aphids.

Ruth Axelrod:

"I have not planted yet but I am making a chart showing how many weeks before the Last Frost Date (Mother's Day) I should start each type of seed indoors and when to plant those that I will direct sow outdoors. My indoor nursery--a narrow chrome shelving unit, with 4-foot shop lights on a timer, filling the long wall of a basement bathroom--is filling up with cuttings from shrubs, discarded orchids and other interesting plant matter with which I want to experiment. The outdoor space behind my townhouse is very limited, too. So, I have decided to give priority to my favorite high-yield edibles such as tomatoes, a vertical cucumber vine, diverse salad greens, fresh herbs and methi (fenugreek), whose parsley-like leaves are a wonderful, pungent ingredient in Indian curries."

David Muns:

Using a new 3-tiered grow system, I have started lettuce, leeks, all the brassicas, tomatoes, peppers, and artichokes. Everything has sprouted after about 10 days, thanks to 14 hours of fake sunlight and high humidity. Black trays with plastic domes now hold one inch seedlings in peat pots. After true leaves appear, they will be set into larger peat pots with an occasional feeding of weak liquid plant food. Next, once daytime temperatures reach 60, plants will be hardened off, kept in a cold frame or under row covers. As long as I smack a few more pesky gnats, I'll have enough plants to fill my raised beds at the FNP Community Garden.

Lee Royer:

"I am still in the planning stage. To be truthful, Iím in the dreaming stage. I have a tall stack of catalogs Iím still perusing. Three of my favorites for vegetables are Johnnyís Select Seeds, Fedco, and Terroir/Underwood Gardens. Starting from seed is even more rewarding when I have saved seeds from my own garden, but I always end up buying seeds, too. The catalogs are just too tempting"

Bill Conyers

I started my seed planting activity on February 5th filling 40 cells of what is called an Accelerated Propagation System. It works well, with 38 of 40 cells showing healthy cabbage plants. On February 11, I planted brussels sprouts resulting with 100% propagation, Broccoli with 18 of 20 and my most proud accomplishment was artichokes seedlings. A friend gave me 3 seeds from his packet of 25. After internet research on artichokes in indicated typical low propagation, in the 50% range, I was not to optimistic about my future with artichoke plants. Having only 3 seeds to start, I was quite surprised to see 2 of 3 artichokes popping up and with the 3rd cell showing earth movement.

Read other spring related gardening articles

Read other articles on plants and gardens