Dear Casual Gardener,
I’d like to save money this year and grow my own annuals. I normally spend $300 a season in petunias and impatiens alone and think there must be a better way. I am wondering how soon I start growing the seedlings and if you have any recommendations to get stronger plants?
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Dear Seed Starter,
January is the best time of year to order seeds of all kinds! Most annuals take at least six weeks to get started indoors before they can be transplanted. I usually take the winter season to scour over all my favorite catalogs, plan my color schemes and order my favorites. Above you can see Impatiens I started from seed mixed in with my summer perennials.
For beautiful annual seeds, I’d recommend shopping online. Here are some of my favorite online spots and most have guarantees on all their products. Hardware and home centers are also setting their seeds out now. Remember seeds are time-dated and may not germinate if they are too old in the package, so be sure to check dates when purchasing or upon receiving your order.
Burpee – http://www.burpee.com/
Harris Seeds – http://gardeners.harrisseeds.com/
Park Seed – http://www.parkseed.com/
Renee’s Garden – http://www.reneesgarden.com/
Stokes Seeds – http://www.stokesseeds.com/
Seeds of Change Organic – http://www.seedsofchange.com/
Thompson & Morgan – http://www.tmseeds.com/
Tomato Growers – http://www.tomatogrowers.com/
Once you get your seeds, it is now time to get the party started! The large home centers of the world are bringing out their seed starting systems right now. Usually a reusable seed starting system consists of a plastic bottom tray, growing cells, growing cubes or dirt and a clear tray cover to keep moisture in. The Gardeners Supply Company – http://www.gardeners.com/ is an absolutely fantastic resource for seed starting systems. Here you see a photo of the Gardeners Supply Self Watering Seed Starting System.
These systems are easy to use and inexpensive, however, you can use old plastic trays or whatever you have at home to plant in as well. An alternative to this is using compressed peat disks. If you have a tray, place the peat disks in it, water heavily until all the peat disks expand, then place one seed inside each peat disk: instant pot!
There are biodegradable peat pots you can fill yourself and plant right into the ground. In my experience, these sometimes do not biodegrade in time to allow for root expansion. If I utilize peat pots, I usually split the bottoms out before I plant them in the ground.
Making your own pots from newspaper is the least expensive and “greenest” solution and gives you the freedom of selecting the dirt mix you would prefer. The “PotMaker” is a cool wooden mold you use to make your own biodegradable seed starting pots from newspapers. I have seen this on http://www.burpee.com/ and also on Ebay.
From this point, all you need for basic growth is a sunny window or a wide-spectrum fluorescent light bulb. Place your seed system of choice in front of the window, water regularly once planted and rotate trays to keep regular light on all the plants. If you have no windows and are doing this in your garage or basement, studies have found that there is more success with wide-spectrum fluorescent light bulbs if you place them within two inches over the plants. Heat does speed germination. A warm room or even a special seedling heating mat will encourage stronger growth.
Happy seed growing!
Shawna Coronado says Get Healthy! Get Green! Get Community!