Starting seeds

By Larry Dowell

Part 1

“God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit, you shall have them for food.’” Genesis 1:29

Starting plants indoors is easy. All you need is a container, some potting soil and a sunny window. While this is true, there is much more to the process, some planning needs to be done and the proper materials obtained. I was so eager to start a garden when I first owned a plot 45 years ago that I cut the tops off of some paper milk cartons, found some dry dirt under a building, planted some tomato seeds, and set them in the window. I kept them watered but they died anyway. The next year I was prepared with market packs, potting soil, seeds and a grow light. I started in January and by March had some very leggy plants, but nowhere to put them. I had started too early, back to the drawing board.

With the greenhouse now full plants why would a gardener want to start plants indoors? There are some advantages. After the purchase of basic equipment, it is probably more economical if you discount the time involved in the care and feeding of the plants. While the nurseries offer a good variety of plants, they cannot have everything and you may want to raise a special plant. I have seed saved for several years from a friend who gave me one superb tomato and each year the seed is saved from one tomato and started indoors. The plants are special to me. Another purpose in raising from seed is timing. The nurseries close early. One way to have tomatoes until frost is to plant late for a late crop. This is best done at home. Most of all is entertaining and satisfying to watch the seed emerge and the plants develop, to place the plants in the garden and then harvest your very own home grown fruits.

from the Master Gardener Notebook

Part 2

“Whoever loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.”  William Cowper

It isn’t necessary to have a green house to raise seeds indoors, but at some time you may be tempted. My wife and I went to a garden show recently, found a metal and fiberglass greenhouse, and were tempted. Then we saw the price and I went home and put together another cold frame. Since we don’t do year-round gardening, the cold frame is adequate. Some sort of shelter is desired for the process of raising plants indoors.

What are the basic needs for raising plants indoors? First you need to plan what you want to raise and obtain the seeds. A seed-saver couple gave me a package of Marigold seed from their plants. I purchased some hard-to-obtain “Millionaire” tomato seeds (so named because the originator became wealthy) and have collected some other packages of seeds that I want to start. Potting soil is available in a variety of sizes. Trays with individual compartments are available in several sizes. There are many variations on the planting process depending on your imagination, but these are the basic requirements.

Next you need to plan what you are going to do with the plants. If the compartments in your trays are too small or if you have planted in a try without compartment, you may wish to transplant. Peat pots are an easy container since they can be planted directly into the garden. Paper cups or reusable plastic cups are economical, but need to have holes punched in the bottom. With the expanding crop, the windowsill becomes overloaded and a cold frame or other protection (such as a sunny, sheltered porch) is needed to keep the plants from cold temperatures and frost until soil warms. A cold frame is essentially a box with slanted sides and a clear top. The cold frame lid should be lifted during the day to prevent high temperature and to allow the plant to “harden off” or become acclimatized to the wind and sun before setting in the garden.

from the Master Gardener's Notebook, Marshfield Mail