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Starting Seeds For Spring

| 3/29/2013 2:52:03 PM

basil seedlingsHello again. I’d like to talk about seed starting. I plant a vegetable garden outside every spring and I like to start all my vegetable and herb plants from seed instead of buying plants in the spring. It’s much cheaper (unless you are a seed-o holic and go mental with the seed catalogs and order everything in sight like I do) and you get a far greater variety of plants to choose from.  Many of the seed catalogs I like to order from start arriving in December or January which gives me plenty of time to go through them and choose what I want. I like to try different varieties each year but I’ll always make room for my favorites

In my garden I generally grow tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash (usually summer but sometimes winter as well), corn, cucumbers, onions, beans, broccoli, lettuce, Swiss chard, beets, & carrots. All these different types of plants require a specific planting time and method. I am in Massachusetts so the times I specify will only be accurate in the New England area. The last frost date here is Memorial Day (May 31st) and if you’re from NE you know you NEVER plant anything (cold weather crops excluded) in the ground before then. I jumped the gun one year and it snowed a week before Memorial Day killing everything.

I use T5 fluorescent grow lights, such as a Sunleaves Pioneer Jr. Lighting fixture, for everything I start indoors. T5’s are higher output fluorescent lights that help prevent the seedlings from getting too tall and “leggy” due to lack of light. Having that stronger light allows you to keep the seedlings indoors longer and still have strong, healthy plants to transplant outside. I use a light well draining soil like Pro Mix or Black Gold Seedling Mix to germinate the seeds in. The seedling trays are covered with a plastic dome to keep the moisture and heat in and, in most cases, placed on a seedling heating mat. Many types of vegetable seeds require heat to insure germination so the heat mat regulates the temperature of the tray 10 to 20 degrees above the ambient temperature. To accurately maintain a specific temperature for your seedlings I suggest getting a seedling heat mat thermostat.  If you look on the back of the seed packets most will list planting instructions including the ideal temperature for germination.

The first seeds I plant every year are the onions. They take the longest. I’ll start them around early to mid February that gives them more that 3 months to geminate and grow before I plant them outside. I start them in the 3 inch standard tray inserts. I’ll generally poke 9 separate holes in each 3 inch pot and put a seed in each hole. I separate them out later when I put them in the ground. Onions do not need a seedling heat mat underneath them to aid in germination like many other seeds do.

Next I plant peppers and broccoli around the beginning of March. These have to be in separate trays because the peppers require a heat mat to raise the temperature to around 85 to 90 degrees whereas the broccoli doesn’t need a heat mat at all. The broccoli is one of the few plants that can be planted outside before Memorial Day. Usually around the end of April is a good time.

Next comes the tomatoes, and eggplant. These can be started in the same tray because they have the same requirements. Temperatures around 75 to 80 degrees are best for germination. I start my tomatoes and eggplant right around mid to late March

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