Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Upper South
January, 2013
Regional Report

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The magic of growing plants from seeds is one of the joys of gardening.

Gardeners: Start Your Seeds!

Among the most satisfying of garden activities, seed starting can also be one of the most challenging and frustrating. Still, with a little forethought and planning, you can easily have a wide array of healthy transplants for the garden.

What Are Your Reasons for Growing Your Own Transplants?
Growing your own transplants may initially seem like the most efficient and cost-effective way to have lots of new plants, but realistically assess your needs as well as your time and space. Remember, too, that some seeds are more difficult to grow to maturity than others, especially ones with very small or difficult-to-germinate seeds, as well as ones that require a long period of growth before planting into the garden.

The Keys to Successfully Starting Seeds

  • Timing: Find a good seed-starting chart, such as the one at Johnny's Selected Seeds website in order to determine the best time to start various vegetable, herb, and flower seeds so that they will be at their best size for transplanting outdoors at the appropriate time.

  • Soil, Heat, Humidity, and Air: Put together the best possible equipment you can afford. Choose a sterile soilless mix and moisten it thoroughly before planting. A heat mat specifically designed for starting seeds will give a significant boost to germination and can be used for many years. Add a cover to maintain humidity as seeds germinate, then remove. A small fan near your transplants will help to deter diseases, plus help them grow more sturdy.

  • Light: No factor is more critical to success than providing adequate light. Some type of fluorescent light fixture, kept only a few inches above the growing seedlings and raised as they grow, is well worth the investment.

  • Growing On, Feeding, and Watering: Although seeds may germinate in the most inexpensive of containers, be prepared to transplant them after they have several true leaves. Choose a fertilizer and use it according to the manufacturer's directions. Watering is one task that can't be ignored with young seedlings. Keep soil evenly moist but not soggy. Self-watering seed-starting units are ideal for this.

  • Hardening Off and Transplanting: In the last week or two before transplanting into the garden, take the young plants outside on mild days so that they can adjust to the harsher conditions. Finally, the ideal time to transplant is on a cloudy day just before a rain.

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