Spring Fever Encourages Seedling Starting

Can you feel it? The days are getting longer! The plants can feel it, too.  And that means it’s time to PLANT!!! Well, it’s almost time to plant.  But let’s get ready anyway.  Here are all the wonderful things you can plant in the second week of February:

Start inside:




European Cabbage



Directly plant outside: (Yes you can plant outside.  It’s not too early.  Really.  Just poke some 1/2in. deep holes in the ground and wait for them to grow).






For those of you who have never endeavored to start seeds inside, here’s a quick how-to.  The first thing to keep in mind is that you are creating an artificial environment in which seeds can germinate and grow.  Plants don’t willingly disperse their seeds to grow inside.  We must provide all of the seedlings’ needs: sun, soil, water, and air. 

How to make a sun:

Growing plants will need to have sunlight to grow.  Some folks start seeds in a southern facing window.  The seedlings tend to get leggy – too tall – and bend toward the sunlight, which is less than ideal.  But if you have a rare and bright window – go for it! You may want to turn your seedlings every day so they grow straight and not bent towards the sun.

If you do not have a southern facing window you can make your own seed stand.  You can purchase a grow lamp or get one cool florescent light bulb and one warm fluorescent light bulb to make a full sun spectrum.  Here are the plans for starting a stand:

Seed Starting Stand 04-17-09

You do not want your seedlings to reach towards the light.  Make sure to keep the light 2 in. above the seedling and no more.  Ideally, your seeds should get twelve hours of light per day.

How to prepare the soil:

We buy our seed starting mix from A.J. Rahn’s greenhouse off of Gray Rd.  We use the organic mix.  When you plant, you want your soil to be as wet as a wrung out sponge.  Mix water into the soil mix until the soil holds together when you squeeze it but breaks apart when you drop it.  The soil should not drip.

Then, scoop soil into a seeding tray or cell pack, keeping the soil light and fluffy.  Do not push the soil down, it will make it harder for the seedling to sprout.  Then make a small indentation, double the thickness of the seed.  Drop the seed in the indentation, and pinch the soil closed over the seed. Now all you have left to do is put the seed under the grow lamp, keep it watered, and wait for it to grow.

Tips on water:

The soil should stay as wet as a wrung out sponge.  If the soil surface gets lighter, it needs to be watered.  It’s ok to poke your finger along the side of the tray to check moisture if you are unsure.  Young seedlings will want to be watered once or twice a day.  As they get older you can reduce watering to once a day.  Using a sprinkle nozzle to water gives your seedlings a gentle drink.


Air movement helps plants draw up water from the soil.  If your seedlings are in a windy spot, they will dry out faster.  If you put your seeds in an air tight room like a closet, they may not have sufficient air circulation to draw up water.

Hardening off and planting seedlings out in your garden.

Seedlings that move from the warm comfort of your home to the chilly, windy conditions outside get shocked and do not want to grow.  Your seedlings should at least have four adult leaves on them.  Check your seed packet to learn when it is ok to plant them outside.  The week before you plant your seedlings outside, put them outside by a southern facing wall for increasingly longer periods of time during the day.  By the end of the week, they should be ready to be planted in the ground.  If your seedlings get too big for their pots before it’s time to plant them outside, it’s ok to transplant them into a larger pot.  You will definitely have to transplant your tomatoes into larger pots – perhaps as many as three times.

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