Sunday, January 23, 2011
One of the things that I forgot to mention yesterday was that once you figure out what kind of garden style you want,you need to find a place that has sunlight at least 6-8 hours a day! No sun,no veggies. Veggies like lettuce don't like heat,so we put them in an area where they do get sun,but in the afternoon they have some shade so they are not in the direct sunlight all day long.We were able to harvest lettuce up to August. Sue, my blogging friend from Living The Good Life, also pointed out one of the most important things you will need: a wheelbarrow!!!!
Like I mentioned,last year was our first year of really getting into gardening and seed starting. I had no clue,so I went on line and looked up various websites. What did I need? When do I need to start the seeds? When do they get transplanted into the garden? Should all seeds be started?I also asked My Dear Friend Michelle for advice.
A great website is www.yougrowgirl.com .It has instructions on how to start your seeds,and has a printable chart with a list of all the seeds that should be started ( the back of the seed packets also offer information as to whether they should be started inside or not). This chart has areas for you to list when your last frost date is,how far before the frost date the seeds should be started,and how long after the frost date they can be planted outside. Don't know your frost date? If you are like us,you have a Farmers Almanac hanging in your bathroom. If not, You Grow Girl has the website connecting you to the Farmers Almanac for frost dates. We live in NH,so we are in Zone 5,with a frost date of May 20.This chart also tells you how long it takes from sowing inside to planting outside it will take,so you can plan accordingly.
What do you need to start seeds? Room,for one. We started ours downstairs in the basement. Our basement is chilly,so we weren't sure it would work,but sure enough,it did. Some websites or books will tell you that you need special heaters and lights. We got almost everything we needed at WalMart:Starter trays,starter soil,cool flourescent lights,and basic light timers. I bought regular heating pads,but then realized that the ones I bought were on a self timer,so the pads shut off automatically. I found ones without the self timer at Rite Aid. Much better!! We had a card table already,but this year we are going to need more tables.
Say for example you want to plant green peppers,using our frost date of May 20.According to the chart,peppers are safe to put outside 2 weeks after the frost date,which brings us to June 3. The chart says it takes 6-14 weeks from when you start the seeds to put them outside. Based on this,I don't want to start my seeds too early,so Feb would be out of the question.You don't want the plants to be huge when you put them out. I started them on March 25.
When starting seeds,soil should be kept to around 70-75 degrees.The cover should be kept on the seed starting tray(they should come with a clear,plastic cover) The light should be on 24 hours a day until germination occurs(Though I have been told that light doesn't matter at first).Once the plants start to show,reduce the amount of light to 12-14 hours a day. I used 12 hours,but this year I am going to try 14.The light should be as low as possible until the plants sprout,and then you want to keep the lights 3"-6" above the plant as it grows,so you will have to be able to raise the lights. You will want to know how long it takes seeds to germinate so you won't have to guess if things are on track.( Green peppers,for example,take 10-12 days before they sprout). The best way to water plants is from the bottom. I poured a bit of water into the tray,and and the peat pots absorbed the water,so the roots got the water first.( I did also use a plant sprayer)
I read that once the plants start to sprout,you are suppose to take them off heat. I learned a lesson with my green peppers. Once I took them off the heat,they stalled.They didn't grow much. Once I placed the heating pad under them ,they began to grow again.I also had an issue with my Rosemary. They barely sprouted and I wound up having to buy the plants. This year I am going to try to keep the heat on them longer as well. The rest of my plants were fine once I took them off the heat.
Most plants will need to be put into another container before they are ready for the garden. I used plastic keg cups,cans,and regular potting soil. Rule of thumb ( green thumb?) is that when the plants show four sets of true leaves,it's time to transplant.
I think that's enough for today!