By Patti Smith
Even with snow on the ground, it is time to start thinking about your vegetable or flower garden. Growing your own transplants can be a fun experience. Garden centers offer plenty of wonderful vegetables and flowers for you to plant. But ordering seeds or buying them locally will give you many more choices in varieties. You can experiment with types that are unusual or hard to find.
Before you start your seeds, you will need to figure the setting-out date for each transplant. That is the date that it is safe for transplants to go into the garden. In Minnesota, many gardeners prefer to use Memorial Day as the frost-free date just to be safe. But if you really can’t wait and want to get a jump on the season, you can find the average frost-free date on-line or with your local County Extension office.
From your set-out date, you will need to count back to determine when to starts your seeds. Some seed companies list this information on the back of their seed packets. Otherwise there are many charts available in garden books and on-line to refer to.
Your seeds can be started in a commercial seed starting tray or in your own pots or trays. If you use your own, be sure that they are clean and have good drainage. Use a good seed starting mix and water it well before sowing your seeds. The soil should be kept evenly moist but not soaking wet while your seedlings grow. If it is too wet the seeds will rot. You can purchase a plastic vented dome to cover your planting trays or slip your pots or flats into a plastic bag.
To develop into strong, healthy plants your seedlings will need a sunny window. You can also use fluorescent lighting or a commercial grow light. If your seedlings are growing in a sunny location, be sure and turn them often to encourage straight stems. Seedling heat mats can be used as well to keep your seedlings warm to encourage germination.
About one week before you intend to transplant your seedlings outdoors you should start acclimating the tender plants. Move them to a shady spot outdoors during the day and bring them indoors at night. Each day place them into the sun for a few hours, increasing the time each day. Keep them well watered during this period and watch them closely for insect damage.
Once the danger of frost has passed, you are ready to transplant the seedlings into a moist soil bed. To prevent shock and wilting this should be done on a cloudy day. Water the plants immediately and every day for the first week. If after this point there is a drop in night time temperatures, a light covering can be placed over your transplants to protect them from the frost.
Pahl’s Market carries seeds from four different companies offering a wide variety of choices. We also carry germination systems, domes, planting medium, heat mats and everything that makes your seed planting a success. Our staff is on hand to help you make your choices. We look forward to seeing you!