March 2010
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Starting seeds indoorsStarting seeds indoors

As if the on-set of snow melt and warm weather didn’t bring enough garden activity, it’s also the time to start seeds indoors. I used to set up the grow lights and start my first round of seeds in February but now begin a month later. This saves energy (electrical and human) and reduces the amount of time the seed starting gear takes up space in the house. The timing seems to work just fine for the plants.

Yesterday I started a tray of  peppers,eggplants,basil,marjoram,onions and celeriac.  Unless you have a heated greenhouse,fluorescent grow lights are pretty much a necessity if you want strong,stocky seedlings at this time of year.  Seedlings grown on a window sill usually end up leggy and weak. A heat mat helps to encourage quick germination –especially for the eggplants and peppers that are oh-so reluctant to emerge if they sense any chill.  Once the plants are up,then it’s good to remove the heat and let them grow in cooler,60 degree-ish temperatures.

I’ve learned to wait until April for starting tomatoes because they grow so fast and hog the prime real estate available under lights.  By the time they’re big enough for transplanting into larger pots in May,the trays of tomato plants can usually go out into the hoop house with a little added heat on cold nights. 

That said,I did start a few tomato seedling in yesterday’s batch,just to see if we can coax some early  tomato harvests.  We’ve tried it in the past but found no advantage to the early planting.  Frosty nights created a lot of stress worrying about the losing the tomato plants,and they just didn’t look happy nor did they produce fruit significantly earlier than the tomatoes planted on our normal schedule.  But hope springs eternal. I have some ideas for making it work better this time and if the unusually warm spring weather continues,perhaps we can ride the wave of global warming, picking a ripe tomato in June.

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