Gardening with Penn State Master Gardeners #2

Information from Master Gardener Gary White

We focused on planning your garden and you have mapped out exactly where you will plant and what you will plant. So your next thought is when do I get this garden started. It’s April 17th and, looking out your window, you wonder if you need to dig through a 1 inch coating of snow to plant.

Not inspired right?? You should be. It’s a great time to start plants indoors.

Here are a few suggestions on getting started:

  • First and foremost you have purchased your seeds or saved some from previous years. For future reference, a great time to buy online is mid -January to mid- February. Seed companies usually run BOGO, 20 to 30% discounts and/or free shipping. NOTE: this year is different and many are sold out or are currently not taking orders as they attempt to catch up on shipping.

  • Start plants that lend themselves to transplanting rather that those that can be directly sown in your garden. Generally speaking, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, cucumbers and squash are a few of the plants that can be easily transplanted in the garden. You can begin to sow cool weather crops such as peas, lettuce and spinach into your outdoor space.

  • Early April to early May is a great time to begin growing your plants indoors. This will allow your seedling to be ready for transplanting in your garden after the danger of frost has passed. Please read the seed packets as they will provide clear timing on specific plant germination and maturity.

  • It is important to have a few necessary items to begin your seed project. I find that a seed starting kit (available online or in retail garden centers) is the easiest and most convenient way to get started. Peat pellets are included and with a little water added you are ready to go. Peat pots #3 and a bag of potting mix for transplanting seedlings will be needed when the seedlings get their second or third set of leaves. If you want to use household item such as containers, an empty cardboard egg carton and paper cups with drainage holes can be used. I do recommend seed starting mix and potting mix to provide the best germination and growth nutrients.

  • Once you have the peat pellets and/or seeding starting soil in the individual cells, add 2 to 4 seeds per cell. You germination rate will vary depending on age, storage and variety of the seeds. As seedlings emerge you can thin out the weaker/ slower growing plants. Cover your newly planted seed with plastic and place in a warm area. You don’t need light until the seedlings begin to emerge. When seedlings are showing, move to a south facing window or, if possible, place under a grow light which can be purchased specifically for plant starting.

  • Finally, transplant to a larger pot when seedlings grow their second or third set of leaves. One plant per pot is generally recommended. Make sure you keep the plants moist. Don’t overwater and check on them daily

I have provided very general information on getting started with garden plants. There are tons of resources available that will provide information and answers to your questions, so please do your research!

It is certainly going to warm up soon but in the meantime there is a lot you can do to get that garden started so: Get Growing!