I’m sitting here in my little home office looking out the window and it’s snowing. My mind wanders to the days of warmth that I believe are soon to come. Yes, in another two months spring will be here. A month after that I’ll start planting the garden. I have a few weeks to think about the tomatoes, the squash, the beans and the corn. Who knows, maybe I’ll squeeze in a place for some cantaloupe.
The time to start planning this year’s garden is now. I start most of my plants from seeds. I’ve had good success with some and complete failures with others. I’ve fried seedlings with fertilizer and the neighbor’s dog has destroyed young seedlings set out on the porch to harden off, or acclimate to the Indiana temperatures, which is important for plant survival.
My Big Three
The big three plants I like to start indoors are broccoli, tomatoes and peppers. One major advantage of starting your own broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers is the amount of seeds you get in the little packages. If you plant them all, if they all sprout, and if they all grow into healthy plants, you’re going to have a lot of broccoli and tomato plants, far more than you’ll need! Oh I can taste the fresh broccoli now!
Growing My Own Seedlings
When I sow the seeds, I use a seed starting medium and flats containing trays of plastic cubes. I fill the little cubes about half full of seed starting medium, try to place a seed in each one, then poke it down with the point of a pencil about the depth of the length of the point of lead. For some strange reason I usually wind up with two plants in each cube! No fears though, I just let them grow. I water them real good and place the flats in the utility room, which is the warmest room in my home. I leave the newly planted seeds there in complete darkness until I’m sure they’ve all sprouted. Then they go onto the shelves in the bathroom under florescent lights.
When the sprouts have grown their first “real” leaves, I transplant them into larger containers. I use a combination of top soil, purchased from the local farm and fleet store, compost from my own pile, and a little vermiculite. The vermiculite keeps the dirt from packing and allows water to saturate the dirt and reach the thirsty roots of the seedling. I don’t do any fancy measuring, just a couple scoops of top soil to a scoop of compost and enough vermiculite to make it all look good. I didn’t use any other fertilizer on the seedlings last year because I burned some plants the year before by adding additional fertilizer. They grew quite well without extra fertilizer.
Eventually it will warm up outside, so I’ll put the plants out on the porch to soak up the real sun and to start getting acclimated to cooler temperatures and temperature swings. This is important to do over a period of time. It’s also important to note that when you do this, the plants will require careful attention to their need for water. They will dry out very quickly in direct sunlight.
Spring will get here, it really will! I don’t have to worry about running to the local greenhouse or store to get my plants. I can get them in the ground as soon as it’s warm enough and the fear of frost is gone. I get a thrill from starting my own plants and I usually give away all the extras. Sometimes people will offer to pay, which I do accept. It helps to pay for the seed starting medium, the top soil, and the seeds. Yes, I sit here with anticipation, just waiting.