Starting seeds for the garden

By FRITZ MAYER
Posted 4/14/20

REGION — As a result of the pandemic, many garden seed companies have been wiped out of stock. In such uncertain times, it is comforting to take control over one essential part of life: our …

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Starting seeds for the garden

Posted

REGION — As a result of the pandemic, many garden seed companies have been wiped out of stock. In such uncertain times, it is comforting to take control over one essential part of life: our food source.

I began starting my own seeds in New York City in 1982. We had a small five-by-eight-foot plot in a community garden in Manhattan. The reason for starting the seeds myself rather than buying plants from a garden center was there are literally hundreds of varieties of most garden plants available in seed catalogues, while the number of live seedlings is often rather limited.

Further, if I start my own seeds, I can better control the timing on when the fruit of the plant becomes ripe. Take red peppers, for instance. Here in the Catskills, I’ve found that the only way to get ripe red peppers before the first frost in the fall is to start the seeds in the first week of March and grow the plants in a hoop house or greenhouse before putting the plants in the ground in June.

Of course, not everyone has a hoop house, but you can still start many kinds of seeds inside your home. When I first started, I rigged up a couple of two-foot fluorescent lights above a television table. It’s important to have a direct source of light for the seeds and plants placed just a few inches from the tops of the leaves of the plants. Use a good starting soil or soilless mix, keep the plants watered and you will have success with most types of seeds, although some seeds are easier than others.

Cucurbits (melons), cucumbers, squash and pumpkins, don’t really like to be transplanted once they’ve gotten past a certain size. But they perform pretty well when started in peat pots, which can be planted directly into the soil.

Some seeds start so easily when direct-seeded into the ground, and grow so quickly once the temperature is right, that I don’t bother starting seeds in pots. These would be plants such as corn, beans, peas and beets.

But for seeds that are started in pots, care must be taken in the transition from under the indoor lights to under the bright sunlight. If the plants are thrust directly under the bright sunlight, they can easily be burned and die. One way to avoid this is to put them out under the sun for an hour the first day, two hours the next and so on. Another way is to purchase some row cover or Remay which blocks a portion of the sun’s rays.

Many plants, especially tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, onions and many flowers, thrive after being transplanted, and the process gives the gardener much more control over the gardening season.

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