By O’Bryan, Horticulturalist
The first thing a beginning gardener thinks of when embarking on their inaugural gardening year is the bounty they will harvest in the Summer and Autumn months. I hate to let them down when I tell them that gardening starts in February when the seeds start showing up in the stores and the many catalogs start arriving in the mail. But for me, as a seasoned gardener, this is the most exciting time of the year, full of promise and planning, beginnings and adventure.
To properly plan your first garden, or even your 20th, you must start with a list. This list includes what fresh foods you like to eat, which ones you would like to grow, and even which varieties you prefer. Don’t forget that you can also start your annual flowers and even some perennials at home. The seed catalogs can help with your list. Look through them and read about the flavors of different tomatoes or the length of time it takes to get a full-grown pumpkin. Check out the colors of Petunias and the full size of the Echinacea. This information will help you plan your space and determine what seeds to buy.
After you decide what you would like to grow, and plan the space they will reside in, it is time to pick out the seeds. Although you relied on the catalogs to dream and plan, taking a trip to the Turf and Gardening Store showroom, or visiting the website can help you find the trusted brand, Burpee. http://myturfandgarden.com/pc_combined_results.asp?pc_id=120FF3D5F7A54541A8B870A478533F9C
Burpee seed company has been in business for over 137 years and has been supplying the agricultural world with seeds since the 1880s. Through that time, Burpee has worked diligently to introduce new and exciting hybrids while also preserving the traditional and ever popular heirlooms. Burpee carries both flower and vegetable seeds and is a brand you can trust.
While picking up your seeds, you’ll need to grab a good seed starter mix. It is important to remember that seeds, although ok started in the ground outside when the temps are right, are not to be started in regular old topsoil or potting mix indoors. A seed does not need a lot of nutrient, but instead a light and fluffy media where tiny new roots can spread and establish before being transplanted to a bigger pot or into the ground.
A lesser known seed starter that is used in the greenhouse world is a mix of peat moss, wetting agents, vermiculite and perlite. The last two on that list are important when seed starting as they control water in the media, helping keep the seeds wet, but not too wet. Check out our Professional Mix here. http://myturfandgarden.com/pc_product_detail.asp?key=57134DF3079547C4A1DE46A9846D581D
Next you will need something to put the mix in, like a plastic tray or individual containers. I prefer starting my seeds in a tray of professional mix, and then once they have a little size I transfer them to a potting mix (organic if growing vegetables) in peat pots.
But back to the seeds.
Your seeds will need to stay warm and humid. Set your tray of newly sown seeds on a heat mat to make sure the seed starter media stays nice and warm. Make sure to mist your seeds, not “water” them. They need to stay wet, but drowning them will cause displacement problems. A good spray bottle is the easiest way to water your seeds and in turn the sprouts when they show their exciting little leaves. Cover the seed tray with plastic to keep the humidity in check.
Once the seeds sprout, they will put out their first set of dicot leaves. These are the leaves that have been living in the seed, just waiting for you to put enough water on them to help them break free. Continue misting your seedlings and move them, with the heat mat, to a sunny window or place them under a grow light.
Delicately transplant your seedlings to potting soil once they get 2 sets of “true leaves”. These leaves will look different than the dicots, taking on the appearance of leaves associated with the plant you are growing. To transplant, scoop the tiny plant out and try to leave some of the seed starter media around the tiny roots. Gently replant the seedling in a nice potting mix residing in a peat pot. Lightly water and place it back near their sun source, without the heat mat. In its new pot and soil, the plant will get the nutrients it needs to start growing faster and larger. Once the weather is good outside and the plant has grown to a good size, you can give it a new home directly in the soil outside. The peat pots will biodegrade in the soil as the roots of the plant grow into the ground.
Seed starting can be daunting if you are trying it for the first time, but it is quite thrilling when you see the little dicot leaves breaking through the starter mix. Then you know you are on your way to growing something fantastic, all on your own.