In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
January, 2014
Regional Report

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Planning for seed starting helps banish winter blues!

Plan for Seed Starting

If winter weather is getting you down, have some fun with seeds! There is no more enjoyable way to pass a wintry evening than flipping through seed packets, organizing them by starting times, germination needs, growing preferences. Or by flower color, or days to yield and maturity dates, or by plant height or ... you get the idea!

From Seed to Setting Out
Indoor seed starting is a long-term commitment. You need to plan ahead and research the plants you will be growing, the conditions they need for germination and for growing on. When the time is right, you plant the seeds in a controlled environment to their liking, wait for them to sprout, nurture the seedlings carefully over the coming weeks (generally six to eight weeks or in some cases, as much as ten to twelve weeks or as few as three to four), acclimate the plants to the rigors of nature via a cold frame, and then, finally, transplant them into the garden -- where the groundhog will eat them for breakfast. Or not, depending on your luck and how well the garden fence is holding up.

Planning Ahead
But at this stage, hungry critters, voracious beetles, and prolonged drought are all in the future, and seed starting is a wonderful thing, offering hours of puttering entertainment and cheerful anticipation. Just think -- fields of bluebells, carpets of marigolds, towers of sunflowers, bushels of tasty, healthy, home-grown tomatoes. At this point even the idea of home-grown spinach is a delicious treat the children are certain to relish!

Plan now for what you will need: lots of clean pots, sterile potting mix, lighting, table space for the growing seedlings, a cold frame for conditioning the transplants. Optional: a horticultural heating mat or heating cable to help germinate those seeds that require a warmer soil temperature.

Use your garden journal, last summer's photos, and your research notes to plan your early-season planting needs. Many nurseries offer a wide selection of seeds that do well locally, or you may order from the many different seed catalogs as needed. A seed swap among gardening friends is another fun way to widen your selection.

Yes, a single packet can engender the most amazing of garden visions So check out the garden center display racks and peruse those catalogs and snap up your favorite seed packets; don't wait to order or your choices might sell out! A seed packet is full of not only seeds but promise and delight. Just think what could happen. . .


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