Grow Your Own Plants

Paul Cober
Adams County Master Gardener

For those gardeners who grow their own plants from seed rather than buying started plants at planting time, it is high time to get your seed catalogs out and decide what kinds of vegetables and varieties you want in your garden this summer.

MARCH

About the first of March is the time you should plant some varieties of seeds indoors in order to grow good size, sturdy plants ready to set out in your garden the latter part of April.  The only seeds that should be planted the first of February are those for celery, and few people attempt to start celery from seed anymore.

Seeds can be planted in flats if numerous plants are needed or in small individual fiber containers.  Plant several seeds in each container; they wonít all grow.  The germination rate on the package gives an indication.  (If you use old seeds from previous years, the germination rate will be lower).  If all your seeds come up, transplanting into larger containers should be done to encourage root development.

Be sure to label your containers; they can easily be mixed up and varieties such as yellow and red tomatoes canít be identified until they start producing tomatoes and you are surprised at what you are harvesting.

Watering is essential, but not so much that you have soggy soil.  Turning your seedlings at regular intervals is important depending on your light source.  You donít want all of your plants bending toward the light.  Your goal should be to keep them straight and strong.

Potting soil is far better as a planting medium than even good loam from your garden; it is easier to handle, more porous for watering, less likely to carry disease and saves the chore of sterilizing the garden soil.  There are many choices in the garden stores--read the labels.

Grow lights (ultraviolet bulbs) over the seedlings are advised; this helps prevent legginess, and with regular turning you should have better-shaped plants.  Most people donít have enough natural light to encourage healthy growth of seedlings.

The time of seed germination varies considerably.  Seeds of Cole family vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower) germinate in five to seven days, tomatoes eight to twelve days, and peppers ten to fifteen days.  All these seeds should be planted about a half-inch deep, small seeds such as most flowers, less than a quarter-inch deep.  Use a liquid fertilizer mixed at half strength for watering the seedlings.

April/May

Seeds sown directly in the garden such as corn, beans, carrots and red beets are sown when the soil temperature warms--about the first of May.  Peas, lettuce, and radishes should be sown about a month earlier.  Some people say to plant your peas on St. Patrickís Day.  Lima beans need warmer soil or you will get crippled plants and replanting will be necessary.  Wait till you are planting corn and green beans to plant your limas.

It takes more time, but it makes an attractive pattern if larger seeds such as radishes, spinach and red beets are planted in a double row four inches apart; this space between the rows is wide enough to control weeds and provides enough space in the row for each plant to fully develop.  You will not have to spend time thinning these crops.

May/June

By the time you have planted your seeds inside in March, transplanted your seedlings in April, direct-sowed the rest of your vegetables in April and May, you will be able to sit back and admire your new garden.  If you had the foresight to plant asparagus years ago, May and June are the months to reap the benefits of your asparagus patch.  You now are ready for an entire summer of your own homegrown vegetables.  Happy Gardening and Healthy Eating!

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