Seed Starting

Garden Clippings for March 24, 2018

Greenhouse operators who specialize in growing bedding plants run full tilt during March and April. By the end of April we relax only a bit, giving new plants time to grow in anticipation of the busy selling season which unofficially begins on Victoria Day weekend.

About half of a greenhouse grower’s day is spent sowing seeds, while the other half is transplanting small seedlings which are affectionately known as plugs. Specialty annual plants such as Begonias, Geraniums, Potato Vine and any Proven Winner plants are started by experts in a specialized environment, then shipped to growers who transplant them into larger pots. Within 6 to 8 weeks they are ready for sale.

For growers, the business of starting seeds is less complicated than buying and transplanting plugs because it avoids the cost of buying and shipping started plugs. Tomatoes and peppers are first and foremost, followed by a mix of Petunias, Zinnias, Marigolds and other vegetable and flowering plants.

Truth be told, greenhouse growers don’t possess any skills that the average home gardener can’t duplicate. Sure, we do it on a larger scale and have the watering and fertilizing process down to a fine art, but sowing seeds is an age-old activity that dates back to the beginning of time. All that’s required is sun, water and soil.

Start with the fun job of shopping for seeds. Seed supply centres and on-line catalogues will give you the widest selection, but if you are not looking for anything specialized, seed display racks should satisfy your needs. Don’t worry about the quantity of seeds within a package because whatever you don’t use in your initial year can be kept for future years.

Find a spot in your home that has plenty of light. A south, west or east facing window will offer sufficient light. If your windowsill gets chilly, pull the seeding tray a foot or two away from the draft. A nearby heat register also spells trouble.

For containers, almost anything will do the trick. Leftover seeding flats from last year’s gardening will work, as will styrofoam cups or jiffy trays available from garden supply centres. Egg cartons make perfect containers, provided you punch a hole in the bottom for good drainage.

Look for a prepared potting and seeding soil-less growing medium. Dampen the soil in a pail before putting it in containers. Avoid using garden soil because it won’t give good drainage and may encourage fungus and disease growth.

Plant seeds according to directions on the package. Most seeds want to be planted 6 to 8 weeks before the end of May frost free date. Push the seed down into the soil mix to ensure good seed to soil contact. Water well but don’t saturate.

Most seeds will germinate a week or two after seeding. If mild warm weather is expected, putting the containers outdoors through the daytime will make them stronger and will help acclimatise them for life outdoors.