In the Garden:
Middle South
January, 2013
Regional Report

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When winter and spring give way to warm weather, the straw bales of this cold frame can be used as mulch while the recycled windows go into storage until needed again.

From Seed to Success

For many do-it-yourself gardeners, there's nothing more satisfying than growing vegetable plants from a tiny seed. If you have time, as well as a bit of indoor or outdoor growing space, you too can produce your own transplants or garden-grown seedlings.

Vegetables best suited to transplanting are the brassicas (cabbage, kale, and their like), as well as eggplant, lettuce, okra, peppers, and tomatoes. Those that need careful handling include cucumbers, peas, and melons. Others, such as beans, beets, carrots, and corn, are especially sensitive to root disturbance, so their seeds should be planted directly into garden soil.

For surefire success:

  • Sow seeds in a sterile medium that is both well-drained and well-aerated.
  • Provide adequate heat and moisture for germination and growth.
  • Make sure seedlings get enough light for stocky growth.
  • Harden off seedlings prior to transplanting into the garden.

It's as easy as that! Depending on your method, here are a few additional details to keep in mind.

Starting Seeds Indoors (8 to 6 weeks before the average frost-free date)
Though seeds can be started in a flat and potted up when they have one or two pairs of true leaves, beginners will find it easier to grow seeds in individual cups or peat pots. Plant each container with two to four seeds as directed on the packet and thin later to one plant.

The key to stockiness is 16 to 18 hours of natural and/or artificial light. Forty-watt fluorescent tubes, placed about 4 inches above seedlings, work best. After the first leaves appear, feed with a water-soluble starter fertilizer at every other watering, alternating with plain water to prevent salt accumulation. Prior to planting out, condition the seedlings for two to three weeks by exposing them to increasing periods of natural conditions.

Starting Seeds in a Cold Frame (6 to 4 weeks before the average frost-free date)
Locate your cold frame on the south side of a building and be prepared to open the frame if the daytime temperature reaches more than 50 degrees F. If it drops below 20 degrees F at night, use an outdoor heat lamp to keep plants from freezing. Condition the seedlings before transplanting.

Starting Seeds in the Garden
To ensure moist, well-draining soil, add 3 cubic yards of organic matter per 1,000 square feet of garden bed. Rake the amended soil smooth and plant seeds as directed on the packet, keeping the seed bed moist at all times, and thinning seedlings later as needed.

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