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March 25, 2011 - Kathie Evanoff
There may not be much growing outside, but inside things are lush and green and nearly ready for cultivation. Okay, maybe not really that ready, but promising things are happening under lights.
Six weeks ago I started seeds of bulb onions, flat-leaf parsley and summer savory. Parsley can be harvested anytime and although I expected germination to take a lot longer than it did, the little cells of plants are ready to move into larger containers where they can grow big and strong before they go outside in a few more weeks. Savory, another herb that is one of my favorites because it goes so well with green beans, also has shown great promise for an early spring planting. I’ll put a couple of these in containers for indoor growing and save the rest for the herb garden outside where plants will get nice and tall over the summer. Onions take longer and since these are the giant bulb varieties, they needed a longer head start than most of the other garden vegetables.
Although these were early starters, the next few weeks are crucial to getting seeds going for the garden. If you like to start your own plants from seed, now is the time to get peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and kale going so the plants have a great head start,
I like to stagger sowing the greens, including beets because I like the green tops better than the roots, starting trays every two weeks until I start moving them outdoors in early to mid-May. It all depends on how soon I can get into the garden after moisture from the winter thaw and spring rains dries out enough. I sow the seeds in individual cells that fit into a tray so water doesn’t run all over the place. I place the tray on a heat mat that warms up the soil and helps the seeds germinate faster. Once the seeds germinate and tiny new plants start growing, I place the tray under a florescent light fixture that is on chains that I can raise or lower. The light is never more than two inches above the tops of the plants and as they grow, the light gets pulled a little higher.
Before the plants go into the ground in late May, they are carried outdoors for a few hours each day to sit in the sun and get used to the difference in temperature. This process is called “hardening off” and it is very important for the plant to acclimate gradually to reduce the shock of transplanting.
So get those seeds out and get growing. The spring explosion of plants is about to begin.
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Summer savory, Italian parsley and onions have been growing since February under lights. They will be more than ready to go into the garden in May.