Sunday, February 20, 2011

Growing Vegetable Plants Indoors from Seed

Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called "Growing Vegetable Plants Indoors from Seed" (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:

These plants should be started indoors at the times recommended by this chart, before transplant. You will have to decide when the planting time is safe where you live. Example: on Cape Cod you can plant outside, tender plants like tomatoes on May 1 to 15. In Maine, where I live, it would be May 15 to 30 and in a Northern Vermont town like St. Johnsbury, it would be May 30 to June 15.

Broccoli! Yummy and Easily Grown in the Garden!

Before you plant directly into the garden you must "harden- off" the plants to acclimate them to the outside weather and temperatures. This is done by moving plants outside into a garage or tool shed for the daytime, where they are protected from the wind and rain, for 3 to 4 days. Leave the door open so plants can get sunshine on them, but are sheltered from weather. By suppertime bring them back indoors for the evening for the first 3 to 4 days. There are various methods you can use to "harden off" your plants but the 3 to 4 day time period is the key!

After this period, leave plants outside if the weather permits during the day for an additional week and back in the building at night time with no heat. This two week hardening off period will help thicken the walls of the plant and make it easier for the plant to adjust when moved outside and planted in the garden. I know, I know all this hardening off seems to be quite the delay to getting going on the "real gardening" but caution at the beginning of the gardening season in Skillin's Country is often critical to a successful gardening season!

When you start the seeds, be sure to use a sterilized potting mix designed for seed starting like Jiffy-Mix (sold right here at Skillin's!). This will eliminate possible fungus problems and prevent the seeds from rotting. When you transplant the seedlings into flats or individual pots, you can use a potting soil, but always use a seeding soil to start seeds in. Starting soils are very light so that seedlings can poke thru the soil easier and are well-drained to prevent damping-off of seedlings.

To help the seed germinate faster you can provide bottom heat with heating cables placed under the seed trays. Skillin's has easy to use and durable heat mats for this job. If you are just going to germinate a few seeds use a heating pad on LOW setting and wrap it in a bath towel to spread out the heat more evenly. Cover the towel with a plastic bag to prevent water spillage and damage to heating pad.

Your local garden center will also sell a seed germination tray with a clear cover, like a mini greenhouse, for under $10.00. Yes we do! The cover will help to hold moisture around the seed for better germination and prevent drying out of the soil. Keep the seed tray warm, around 70 degrees, until plants germinate, then cool 5 degrees if possible. Once plants sprout, you can use grow-lights if you do not have a south facing window to help plants grow without stretching for the light. Run the lights for 12 hours during the day and then off at night, so the plant can rest. Plant lights should be 6 to 12 inches from plant. Try it if you have not before--it is fun!

Thanks to Paul Parent!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
February 20, 2011

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