I love gardening, it is a great way to get back in touch with nature and a great way to clear the mind. Last year was the first year that I tried my hand at growing all my garden veggies from seed. You would be surprised at how easy it is. I had great success that this year my husband and I will be expanding our garden to be 4 times the size and we will be starting all our veggies and flowers from seed, a big task that we know will be worth the work.
To get started:
For my seed containers I saved up all our egg cartons and news papers from the last 8 months, you can also buy containers from the store. The most important part is to remember when gathering containers for your seeds is to pick containers that either have a hole in the bottom or ones that you can create a hole in the bottom for drainage. Dirt is equally important, you want a seed starting mix or fine textured potting mix, these will provide a sterile, weed-free place to let the seeds grow. You’re also going to want to pick a place in your home to keep your seeds while they germinate and an other place to keep them once the start to grow. I like use my basement laundry room as my germination place and my kitchen bar counter for the growing place. My basement laundry room is a stable environment with just enough natural light and I can control the temperature to ensure that the germinating plants stay between 70-75º, this is the optimal growing temperature. So now that we have the supplies to begin lets get planing.
General rule of thumb is to began the germination process 4 to 8 week before the last kill frost. For Colorado that is typically in February, but as we all know Colorado has a mind of its own and you may not be able to transplant your seedling to your outdoor garden mothers day weekend if the weather is still freezing. This just means that your plants will just have to keep making your house their home for a while longer. I personally get really excited and start getting the 2 areas ready the first week in February and start germinating my first round of seeds the second week on February. To germinate you simply plant 4 to 6 seeds (depending on the size of your container, I will be planing 3 seed in each of my containers since I am using egg cartoons and they are not very big) according to the package and plant type, most but not all seeds you plant about a 1/2 or a /14 deep. After planting the seeds, water them in with a fine mist hand sprayer and cover lightly with a layer of plastic (I use cheap saran warp from the dollar store). While the seeds are germinating, keep them in your warm location (temperatures between 70-75°F) and away from bright sunlight. Sit back and watch the magic happen and as the seedlings emerge, remove the plastic and move the container closer to a bright window or light.
Now that your seeds are turning into seedlings its time to move them into there seeding grow space. Mine will be moved to my bar counter top, where I have hung a fixture that has a combination of one cool white fluorescent tube and one warm white tube so that it provides the broad spectrum of light the seedlings needed to grow. For best growth, I keep the lights on 12 to 16 hours per day. This is the stage at which under watering and over watering becomes and issue. Under watering will cause the plant to die and over water can cause the plant to get mold, fungi, or to die. This is why you plant more than one seed in each container, some seeds will make it and others will not, it’s survival of the fittest. As the plants start to grow they will develop leaves, the first set are just seedling leaves the second set are their “true” leaves. Once the plants true leaves start to come in it is recommended that you fertilize with a quarter-to half-strength water-soluble fertilizer to stimulate healthy, even growth. As soon as the seedlings are large enough to handle, carefully transplant seedlings into their own small pots to provide them room to grow. This is the stage when you want to transplant only the strong plants…. I had a very hard time with this part last year, I wanted them all to live, you spend all this time growing them and then to separate them and have to let the lesser plants die made me sad… This year however I learned that by keeping all the seedlings we had some really weak plants and some of them never grow into anything, thus I had wasted all that time, this year I will only be keeping the strong plants.
Take care not to expose seeds and seedlings to cold drafts, or allow them to wilt. Watch for signs of disease. Too much moisture, high temperatures and poor light weaken the plants and make them susceptible to the damping off fungus.
May is now here and the sun is out the days are warmer and if all goes well its about 2 weeks before mothers day and it is now time to start the hardening off process. Start by placing the plants outdoors where they will receive direct sunlight but out of the wind for a few hours each day for a week. Gradually lengthen the amount of time outside each day. Move the plants inside at night if temperatures drop to near freezing. Keep them watered and plant them as soon after hardening as possible according to planting guide for each plant (and in Colorado if weather is suitable)
Now that you have successfully planted your garden continue to water and watch all the yummy things grow! Stay tuned for more blog posts about planing, gardening, canning, cooking, homesteading and much more!