Get a jump on the growing season by starting your favorite or hard to find plants indoors from seeds. Starting hard to find plants, like many of the heirloom or newly introduced varieties, from seed may be the only way you will be able to add these to your garden. Plus, you’ll be extending the growing season and bringing the fun of gardening indoors.
All you need is a little space, a few supplies and of course seeds to get started. Check the back of your seed packets for planting directions. Most recommend when and how to start seeds indoors as well as any other special care the seedlings will need.
Purchase, recycle or make your own containers from newspaper. Sanitize used pots by dipping them in a one part bleach and nine parts water solution and then rinsing them with clean water.
Fill the containers with a sterile well-drained potting mix or seed starting mix. Once the containers are filled, plant the seeds according to the seed packet directions.
For most seeds, plant them twice their diameter deep and gently water. Continue to water often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. Extend the time between watering and increase your seed starting success by covering the container with plastic. Or purchase a seed starting kit, like the self-watering Growease seed starter kits.
Move your containers to a sunny window as soon as the seedlings emerge from the soil. Turn plants often to encourage even growth. Or increase your success by growing seedlings under artificial lights. You can make your own light system or purchase tabletop, shelf units or easy to assemble light systems, like Stack-N-Grow (gardeners.com). Keep the lights four to six inches above the top of the seedlings for best results. As the seedlings grow, be sure to maintain this distance by simply raising the lights or lowering the containers.
Move overcrowded seedlings to larger containers once they have two sets of true leaves. The first leaves that appear are rather indistinct and are called seed leaves. The next set of leaves look more like the mature plant’s leaves and are called true leaves. Once the next set of true leaves forms, it is time to transplant overcrowded seedlings.
Use a fork or spoon to carefully lift out the seedling. Clusters of seedlings can be dug and carefully teased apart before planting in individual pots. Be careful not to pinch and damage the young tender stems.
Place seedlings in their own clean container filled with moist sterile potting mix. Plant the young plants at the same depth they were growing in the original container.
Thin seedlings started in individual containers as needed. If you planted several seeds in each small container remove all but the healthiest one. Prune the weaker seedlings to ground level, so the remaining seedling can develop into a strong transplant for the garden.
Continue to grow your plants in a sunny window or under artificial lights and water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist.
Soon it will be time to move your homegrown transplants into the garden.
No Gardening Space – No Problem
By Melinda Myers
Brighten up your patio, deck or front entrance with containers. They’re an excellent way to add color, fragrance and beauty where plantable space is limited or non- existent.
Set a few containers on the front or back steps, in the corner of your deck or other location where they can be enjoyed. Try stacking and planting several containers to create a display with greater vertical interest. Check the views when looking from inside the house out as well as when enjoying the space outdoors. Strategically place containers for the greatest viewing pleasure.
Save even more space by using railing planters. You can dress up the porch or deck by filling these planters with colorful flowers and edibles. Make sure they are sturdy and easy to install. Reduce time spent installing and maintaining with easy-to-install self-watering rail planters, like Viva balcony rail planters (gardeners.com)
Don’t limit yourself to flowers. Mix in a few edibles and bring some homegrown flavor to your outdoor entertaining. You and your guests will enjoy plucking a few mint leaves to flavor beverages, basil to top a slice of pizza or sprig of dill to top grilled fish.
Herbs not only add flavor to your meals, but texture and fragrance to container gardens. And the many new dwarf vegetable varieties are suited to containers. Their small size makes them easy to include and many have colorful fruit that is not only pretty, but delicious.
Add a few edible flowers like nasturtium and pansies. Dress up a plate of greens with edible flowers for a gourmet touch. Or freeze a few pansy flowers in ice cubes and add them to a glass of lemonade or sparkling water.
Include flowers like globe amaranth (Gomphrena), Lisianthus, and daisies that are great for cutting. You’ll enjoy your garden inside and out throughout the season.
And don’t forget to plant some flowers for the butterflies to enjoy. Zinnias, cosmos, and marigolds are just a few that are sure to brighten any space, while attracting butterflies to your landscape. Salvia, penstemon and flowering tobacco will help bring hummingbirds in close, so you’ll have a better view.
So make this the year you select a container or two that best fits your space and gardening style. Fill it with a well-drained potting mix and combination of beautiful ornamental and edible plants to enjoy all season long. The additions are sure to enhance your landscape and keep your guests coming back for more.
Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.