Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
New England
January, 2001
Regional Report

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Winter is a great time to get all your seed-starting supplies ready to roll.

Getting Ready for Seeds

After a 2-foot snowstorm over New Year's, you'd think the last thing on my mind would be gardening. However, the catalogs are rolling in and Web sites glowing with new varieties, and I feel an all too familiar twitch to start going through my pots, labels, and other seed- starting supplies.

Starting Your Own Seeds

It's still too early to start seeds indoors in my USDA zone 4 climate, but it pays to be ready. Even though most gardeners don't start their seeds indoors (the trend is to buy plants through the mail or locally), I like to start some of my own seedlings. It's part of the winter gardening ritual I've developed and helps me feel part of the changing season.

Why Start Your Own?

There are some advantages besides the emotional and spiritual ones for starting your own seeds. I find I can try unusual varieties and types of vegetables by seed that I'll never find as transplants. Purple kohlrabi transplants, for example, aren't usually found in nurseries, but seeds are readily available on the Web.

Also, if I'm inspired, I can start lots of one variety of a plant much more cheaply than buying an equal number as transplants.

Checking the Supplies

But before I even open a seed packet, I need to check my lights, clean pots, and do an inventory of supplies. I use fluorescent shop lights in my basement to start my seedlings. These provide adequate light for most seedlings to grow for a few months before they're moved outdoors. If I wanted to grow them longer indoors, I'd have to purchase full-spectrum grow lights to provide enough light "boost" so they don't get leggy.

I inventory plastic pots (all sizes), labels, seedling trays, and soilless mix bags. I reuse plastic pots each year, so I'll clean them in a 1 percent bleach solution now to kill any diseases that may be overwintering in them. Then it's a matter of ordering soilless seed-starting mix, labels, and extra pots so that in a month or so, when spring seems more of a possibility than now, I can start my first seedlings of leeks and artichokes. I can't wait!

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