Don’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to gardening. I learned this while reading Nancy Bubel’s book The New Seed-Starters Handbook during this early garden season of 2013. I’ve started plenty of seeds before but have tried shortcuts like planting the seeds in regular garden soil (because it’s free in my back yard) or leaving the grow lights on 24 hours a day because if light is good then a lot is better. After reading Bubel’s book I learned better results can be had sticking with the tried and true.
• Most seeds should be started in warm soil temperatures (75-90) but, once germinated, enjoy cooler temperatures to grow (60-70).
• The optimum amount of time under the grow lights is 12-16 hours. Plants do important cellular work during hours of complete darkness.
• The medium you start seeds in is important – go ahead and buy the loose, fluffy seed starting mix. Those tender roots need to be able to move comfortably in seed mixtures which have ample air spaces. You can use regular soil but the little seedlings take a lot longer to forge ahead into a healthy adult plant.
• Kitty cats like to lie down on fresh flats of tender lettuce if they are left outside on the ground while being hardened off (my observation, not in Bubel’s book).
It is so good warm weather is finally here. It has been a weird spring in the Shenandoah Valley. What was up with those heavy, wet snows in March? The Page News & Courier reports that in Page County March 2013 was the “snowiest” since records have been kept. Even Punxatawny Phil got in hot water for predicting an early spring.
But it is mid April and winter is behind us. Hopefully.
At the White House farm garden, a row of sugar snap peas have been in the soil for two weeks, the rainbow Swiss chard, Russian blue kale, onion sets and radish will soon push up their little green heads. The mesclun mix (started indoors in early March) has transitioned well to the outdoors and is beginning to put on some size.
With recent days in the upper 80s it is oh-so-tempting to haul the entire seed collection out and plant everything including the melons, squash, herbs and other heat-loving plants. Sure as anything, we will have another – or several- hard frosts and not even row covers will help protect the veggies that shouldn’t be planted out until at least May 15, the official frost free date for Luray and the surrounding area.
Check back to our garden blog – we will be chronicling our garden activities and sharing what we observe and learn in our garden over the spring/summer.