Ask Our Master Gardener
Debbi Doty has joined our Shake and Grow team as a Master Gardener. Deb, and her husband John, have raised 7 children and have two granddaughter’s and one grandson. Debbi has always loved working in the yard and garden! She is frequently a featured writer in our Shake and Grow Newsletter, and is active in her community educating everyone on the latest tips for the Home Gardener. If you have any questions just ask our Master Gardner. Debbi is available to answer your gardening questions
Successful Seed Starting Indoors
Successful seed starting indoors is dependent on creating a nurturing environment for the miracle of germination to occur. This environment must include several things. At the top of the list are heat, light and the proper growing medium. But first, we must select a container. In your local home store, you can purchase a wide variety of countertop seed starting containers but if you are a recycling enthusiast, you can reuse plastic take-out containers from your favorite restaurant. The bottom portion of the takeout container will need to have holes poked for proper drainage. The clear lid may be used to keep in moisture and heat while allowing light to reach the soil surface. A second lid can be used to catch any water run off. There is commonly a vent in the clear plastic lid which will need to be covered with plastic lid which will need to be covered with plastic tape to prevent water from spilling out of the second lid. Next, we need to consider the growing medium. Young seedlings are very delicate and susceptible to fungus and mold, so I recommend purchasing a sterile seed starting mix. Some people simply put old soil in the oven to sterilize it but starting mix is so inexpensive that I don’t think it’s worth the trouble. After choosing your seeds check the package to determine the depth to plant them. A general rule is to plant the seed 2 ½ times its diameter. Some seeds, like lettuce, must have light to germinate so they are sewn directly on top of the growing medium. Moisten the soil to begin the process of germination and keep the mix evenly moist but not soaking wet. Place the clear plastic lid on the container and put it in a warm location. Many seeds benefit from an inexpensive heat mat to keep the soil warm. Remove the lid when the seeds have sprouted and are 1 to 2 inches tall. A full spectrum grow light placed two inches above the tallest seedlings helps to prevent them from becoming long and spindly. Transplant to larger containers when the seedlings have two sets of true leaves. Remember, when your new seedlings have a true root system to begin using Shake and Grow granular or liquid. Apply 4 to 6 shakes every 3 to 4 weeks per 8” pot. If using the liquid mix 1 tablespoon into 1 gallon of water and irrigate your plants. Distribute evenly over soil surface and water immediately after application. To thin seedlings use scissors to snip off extra ones at the soil level rather than pulling them and disturbing the roots of desired plants. Be sure to check germination time and days to maturity in order to determine which plants need to be started early for your area. If started too soon you may have to deal with nearly mature plants before it’s time to safely plant them in the ground.
Time to start the .MARCH Not the month of March but the march to a successful growing season. How long is your growing season? Here in the frozen north it is not as long as I would like it to be. Watermelons and pumpkins are just beginning to set beautiful mini fruits when the cold winds of autumn begin to blow. If you live in a cool zone or if you would like to raise a pumpkin of mammoth size, or if you would just like to enjoy the fruits of your labor early it is time to begin the growing season now. Get those seed packets out and check out the back. How long will it take till harvest? What conditions best encourage germination? What kind of soil is best for this variety? Once you know this you are ready to begin the march. Start with the soil. Seeds that are more difficult to germinate will benefit form a sterile, commercial, seed starter soil. Many companies make peat pellet pots that expand when you add water. Most seeds germinate better in a humid environment so small “greenhouse” type trays are helpful. You only need one because when the plants touch the top you will transplant to larger pots. Then, you can start another group with refill pellets. If you prefer to use bagged seed starter you can make your own pots from wrapping newspaper around a glass and folding up the bottom. Make a tray from a box lid or cut off box and line it with plastic. Cover with clear plastic if not using a commercial mini green house. Keep seeds moist till they germinate. Remember, some seeds need light to germinate so don’t cover them with soil. Place your mini greenhouse in a warm spot. Once the plants touch the cover transplant to peat pots or clean plastic pots with sterile soil mix. Remember, when your new seedlings have a true root system to begin using Shake and Grow. Apply 4 to 6 shakes every 3 to 4 weeks per 8” pot. for larger plants small trees or shrubs apply approximately 1 tsp per square foot of soil. Distribute evenly over soil surface and water immediately after application.