Well I’ve been off the blog this last month because I caught a nasty virus that kept me in bed for a week and really boogery for two more weeks after that. But, with some help from my mom, actually a lot of help, I did manage to get my seedlings started. If you haven’t already started your veggie seeds indoors, it’s not too late. You can also start some veggies outdoors right now.
Let’s start with the indoor seedlings. It’s only a few simple steps to get started.
Purchase good quality seeds. The back of the seed packet will tell you if the seeds are disease resistant. Make your life easier and go for these!!!! The rule of thumb for how deep to plant the seed is to plant it twice as deep as it’s size. Plant more than one seed in the pot/pod. If the seed is really small, like allysum, sprinkle them across the top and of the soil in the pot and then sprinkle potting soil on top of the seeds, just enough to cover the seeds. Tamp the soil down and spritz it with water.
It is important to plant your seeds in a good seedling potting mix. This is a lightweight mix that allows the water to drain and air to circulate so that the seeds and seedlings are less likely to suffer from “damping off”. This is a common nasty bugger caused by a variety of fungus that will kill your tender seedlings quickly. The seedling wilts at the base of the stem, usually before the third leaf shows. Damping off occurs in cold damp conditions. Your seeds need temps from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate, and very little water. Too much water will rot the root and encourage the damping off.
Once you plant your seeds, lightly spray them and then cover the tray with the either the plastic top that came with the tray or plastic wrap, or simply place in a green house. Once you see moisture accumulate on the plastic wrap or the top of the plastic cover, lift it to vent the moisture. Once the seedlings have emerged, you can remove the top altogether. If you are using a purchased greenhouse, as in the picture above, make sure the greenhouse is vented when you put the trays in. You will be surprised how quickly it heats up and how much heat it holds. The key here is warmth without too much dampness.
There are quite a few seeds that don’t even need light to germinate, just the right potting mix, a bit of water and warmth. However, all seedlings need the light to grow. A UV light, a south facing window, or fancy grow lights all will do the trick. If your seedlings are getting a little leggy that means they’re not close enough to the light source. You can move them outside as it warms up and gets sunnier. Thin the weak seedlings (that means pluck the smallest out), and add a little bit of liquid fertilizer. Keep the soil mix moist but not damp. Keep the seedlings in the light during the day, and tuck them in at night, which is when they’ll do an amazing amount of growing.
And there you have it. Don’t stress too much over the project. If this is you’re first time, don’t plant too much, only your favorites. Otherwise you may get overwhelmed and it will no longer be fun, or relaxing. Which means it will go the way most of our New Year’s resolutions go. Pace yourself!
Now let’s do a quick over view of what you can plant outside now. Cool weather vegetables can be planted outside right now. Here’s the planting chart from the University of Illinois Extension, through which I completed the Master Gardener program.
|Bean, bush, lima||Very Tender||May 10-June 15||.|
|Bean, bush, snap||Tender||Apr. 25-July 15||.|
|Beet||Half-hardy||Apr. 10-July 15||July 10|
|Broccoli||Half-hardy||Apr. 10-May 1
|Cabbage||Half-hardy||Apr. 10-July 15||June 10|
|Carrot||Half-hardy||Apr. 10-July 15||May 15|
|Corn, sweet||Tender||May 1-July 9||.|
|Cucumber||Very Tender||May 10-June 15||.|
|Eggplant||Very Tender||May 10-June 15||.|
|Endive||Half-hardy||Apr. 1- May 1
July 1-Aug. 15
|Garlic (spring planted)||Hardy||Mar. 25-Apr. 15||Apr. 1-10|
|Garlic (fall planted)||Hardy||Sept-Oct|
|Kohlrabi||Hardy||Mar. 25-Apr. 5
|Lettuce, leaf||Half-hardy||Mar. 25-May 15
Aug. 15-Sept. 15
|Muskmelon||Very tender||May 10-June 15||.||4|
|Mustard||Half-hardy||Apr. 1-May 10
|New Zealand spinach||Tender||Apr. 25-June 15||.|
|Okra||Very tender||May 10-June 15||.|
|Onion, from seed||Hardy||Mar. 25-Apr. 15||Apr. 1|
|Onion, from plants or sets||Hardy||Mar. 25-May 1||Apr. 1|
|Parsley||Half-hardy||Apr. 10-May 1||.|
|Peas||Half-hardy||Apr. 10-May 1||.|
|Pepper||Very tender||May 10-June 1||May 10|
|Pumpkin||Very tender||May 20-June 10||June 10|
|Radish, spring||Half-hardy||Apr. 5.-June 1
|Radish, winter||Half-hardy||Aug. 1-15||Aug. 10|
|Rhubarb||Hardy||Mar. 25-May 15||.|
|Rutabaga||Half-hardy||May 1-July 1||June 15|
|Spinach||Hardy||Mar. 25-Apr. 15
|Squash, summer||Very Tender||May 10-June 15||.|
|Squash, winter||Very Tender||May 20-June 1||June 1|
|Sweet potato||Very Tender||May 10-June 1||May 15|
|Tomato||Very Tender||May 10-June 1||May 15|
|Turnips||Hardy||Mar. 25-Apr. 15
|Watermelons||Very Tender||May 10-June 1||.|
For those of you who don’t live in Illinois, your state universities will also have Extension programs through which you can access the planting dates chart for your area. And for our beautiful neighbors to our North, Canada also has university Extension programs. It is through the Extension programs that you can become a Master Gardener, or simply ask questions of the master gardeners.
The salad greens can be planted in a pot right outside your back door. These seeds do not need to be covered to germinate. They actually prefer the colder spring temps to get themselves growing. Don’t forget to water!
It’s been rainy and grey and we may even have flurries tomorrow. So here’s a little digital sunshine to remind me what my yard will look like soon!! Hope it brightens your day.