The Q&A Archives: Starting Marigolds In A Cold Frame

Question: I am interested in starting African marigold seeds (specifically the Burpee white varieties) in a cold frame on my deck around the middle of March. I live in southeastern PA (I'm not certain whether this is considered Zone 6 or 7.) I would like to start them in mid-March so that they will be in bloom by mid-June when I usually have to pull up the pansies. The cold frame is a homemade one with a piece of glass about 1/4 inch in thickness that sits on top of the structure. Can this be done? I would prefer to start the seeds in a cold frame (or in some other fashion outdoors) rather than indoors as I find it troublesome to control the internal light and heat. If this is not a good idea, can you advise as to what my alternatives may be?

Thank you for your time and attention.

Cynthia S. Sabatini

Answer: Although a cold frame can be very useful for hardening off seedlings and transplants prior to setting them in the garden proper, often they are nearly as much work as an indoor project would be. The reason for this is the frame must be opened on sunny days to avoid excessive heat buildup and then covered nightly to hold warmth in and possibly even insulated on cold nights. The plants also need careful monitoring for watering and other similar needs. Starting seeds so early will risk very cold weather and without supplemental heat, they may freeze.

For these reasons, in my experience it is actually easier to start seeds under the more easily controlled indoor conditions.

The easiest solution might be to either plant the seeds directly in the ground, where they will germinate and grow on naturally. Then you could transplant the seedlings when the pansies are ready to come out. Another possible easier solution would be to purchase transplants and pop them in when the time comes.

Sometimes gardening is just plain fiddly. I wish I had a better answer for you.

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