Starter plants

By Larry Dowell

“April is a promise that May is bound to keep.”  Hal Borland

The sunny, warm days of April provide a temptation to plant tender crops, outside. This is another advantage of starting inside. The desire to plant is satisfied and the crops can be protected until an opportune time. There is no need to plant tomatoes outside when the nighttime temperatures are below 55 degrees. The blooms will drop off. I live in a “frost holler” just off the plateau and I have lost plants to frost as late as May 20, so I am shy about outside planting of tender crops. For other reasons I wait until near May first to start my indoor planting.

The planting containers need to be thoroughly washed, particularity if they were used last year. I recycle everything that I can. The containers need to be rinsed in a bleach solution, one part bleach to 10 parts water. When dry, store in a protected spot until ready to plant. At planting time, fill the containers with potting soil and sow the seeds in the individual containers or space I inch apart in the trays. Cover with soil to the recommended depth. Water the trays thoroughly. I learned from Bill Ackerman that using a solution of 1 part Hydrogen Peroxide to 10 [arts water will prevent the dreaded damping off. Cove with a clear covering (the domed trays work well), and place in a warm spot. Watch for germination and remove the covering at the first sign of growth, a knuckle of green emerging from the potting soil.

The first leaves are embryonic are not the true leaves which come next. When the true leaves develop, the plants may be transplanted to a larger container such as a peat pot. I see peat post trays in the stores. The compartments are small, but these can be sown and then cut apart at the time of planting eliminating the necessity of transplanting. For most annuals, the time to true leaves will require about 2 weeks, other plants; other times and it all depends on temperature and moisture.

from the Master Gardener's Notebook, Marshfield Mail