Starting Seeds Los Banos CA

Gardeners every year wrestle with whether to start seeds or buy transplants. The answer is simple: It depends.

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Starting Seeds

Gardeners every year wrestle with whether to start seeds or buy transplants. The answer is simple: It depends.

Transplants continue to increase in price. They are grown in heated greenhouses, and a lot of their cost is for fuel. That’s not getting any cheaper.

Seed prices are up too, mainly due to demand. More people garden in tough times. Park Seed and Burpee are reporting banner profit years.

The economics of seeds over transplants still is compelling, despite the “some assembly required” of seeds. For about 2 bucks, you can get enough seed to produce $25 worth of transplants.

Still, even transplants are a great deal. Last year, I produced at least $45 worth of tomatoes on $3.75 worth of plants.

Not all seeds need to be started. Cold-weather lovers such as peas, lettuce, beets and radishes should be seeded directly in the garden. The same is true for fast growers such as corn and beans. Good for early starting are warm crops including tomatoes, peppers and squash.

Despite the economics, a primary benefit of seeds is you can grow stuff not available in stores. Greenhouses grow for the masses. If I want to try a Parisian pickling gherkin cornichon, I’ll need seed.

Remember the requirements of starting seeds: Water, warmth and sunlight.

HOW TO START SEEDS

1. Buy or recycle plastic plant cells. If recycling, wash and sterilize them in a 10 percent bleach solution (1/2 cup bleach in 5 cups of water). Or use peat pods. You can plant them directly with no transplant shock. Use plastic trays to hold your containers.

2. Buy “starting” soil. This is sterilized to prevent plant damp off, the sudden death from fungus. It is nutrient optimized.

3. Buy seeds. Be sure they will grow in our USDA climate zone, which is No. 5. Seeds often are on sale marked for last year’s crop. Note you may lose 15 to 20 percent germination here.

4. Find a warm, sunny place. Southern windows are good. Move trays off sills at night to prevent cold damage.

5. Plant according to directions on the seed packet. The seed depth is the same for inside or outside. Plant two seeds per cell. Thin to one when the seedlings emerge.

6. Seedlings will tell you how they are doing. If they are spindly, they need more light. If they droop, they need moisture.

7. Check moisture each day. Water from the bottom by pouring it into the tray. The starting soil must remain moist but not saturated, which can rot the seed. Use slightly warm water to prevent shock.

8. Don’t start too early. If plants outgrow the container, transplant to larger pots. If you want to transplant in late May, the seeds should be started in mid-March.

9. On warm, sunny days in April, move your trays outside. Bring them in before the night chills. In May, increase the time outside to weather-harden the plants.

Send gardening questions to jim.hillibish@cantonrep.com

 

author: Jim Hillibish