It is that time of the year again, gardeners everywhere are itching to start their vegetable garden. Before you start your seeds, let's look at some of the basics of seed starting.
First make a good soil mixture, I like to use a large Rubbermaid tote (18 gallon). My formula consists of 50% of potting soil (1 large bag of potting soil, 2 cubic ft size), 25% coconut fiber (available in pressed bricks or bags) and 25% vermiculite. This will give the soil enough lightness and water retention for seeds to grow. Next I add 2 C. of slow release fertilizer (polymer coated 14-14-14 or 16-16-16) to the soil mixture. This will give the seedlings some baby food once they germinate, and allow them to grow in the soil until you are ready to transplant them to bigger pots. All kinds of containers can be re-purposed for seed starting. Make sure you cut holes on the bottom for drainage. Fill the containers with the soil mixture and sow your selection of seeds, cover the seeds with a thin layer of the soil mixture, water then tap it down to make sure the seeds have good contact with the soil. Keep your containers in a warm spot, keep them moist, with a little TLC they should germinate soon. Keep in mind, fresh seeds will germinate sooner than old ones, so buy high quality seeds whenever you can.
Long maturing vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants must be started indoors, while short maturing types can be direct sowed. When sowing out doors and transplanting always keep a close watch on the temperature, especially pay attention to soil temperature.
The following is the dates I sow my seeds:
Jan.: Onions, green onions;
Feb-March: Indoors: Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants; Outdoors: peas, spinach, beets, fava beans.
April-May: indoor/outdoor: radishes, lettuce, cole crops (cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi), zucchinis and watermelons.
June: Beans, soy beans, cucumbers, melons, carrots, just about anything can be sowed or transplanted to the garden by now.
Here's a little something special about cucumbers: I really like cucumbers and would do everything I could to get an early harvest. You can start cucumbers indoors, but I generally do not recommend that. Cucumber roots are extremely tender, they don't fare well when transplanting. It take them a long time to recover from the shock. From my experience, it is better just to sow them direct. If you do wish to get an early harvest, use other methods such as covering the sowing sites or use a cold frame over the cucumber seeds you sow.
And for a fall crop sow seeds at the end of July and early August. Many vegetables do well in the fall. By then a lot of your crop are cleared out of the garden. Planting a fall crop is a great way to extend the fresh veggies all the way into the winter. That will be the subject of another blog.