Here is a quick reminder that there is a lot to do now to get ready for gardening this coming spring. You need to decide what you are going to plant. If you are planting seeds it's necessary to make sure your seed starting equipment is ready to go. This entails cleaning, especially if you put it off last fall! Wash all your seed starter trays, tools, pots, etc., in natural soap and water. Rinse well in water cut with bleach (4 parts water to 1 part bleach). Cleanliness cannot be stressed enough if you want to avoid disease problems.
Next is soil. Use a soilless mix. Seeds in pots do not need dirt to germinate. Just a sterile mix which is mixed specifically for that purpose. As for the seeds, read the package to determine the best time to plant. Try not to start your seeds too early or they might get too leggy. Also, some seeds need special treatment prior to planting. Again, check the package for directions. If unsure, there are plenty of resources available from books to the Internet to make sure.
Some seeds need light to germinate and some dark. All will need a good light source once sprouted. I use a fluorescent 2 bulb light fixture hanging on an adjustable chain. Keep the light on a timer for about 12 hours a day. Adjust the lights so they are about 6 inches above the top leaves of the plants.
Remember to label all seed trays!!
I like to water from the bottom of the seed flats using a capillary mat. They can be purchased from garden stores likehttp://www.leevalley.com/( I love Lee Valley Tools, I shop there a lot so by now they must love me, too!). Make sure the seed starter mix does not dry out. You can also water gently from above with a water mist. Once the true leaves have sprouted the plants can use a gentle fertilizer, (again, follow package directions).
When the plants are looking like themselves it's time to transplant to larger containers. You can avoid this step by planting in peat pots or make pots from old newspapers. This allows you to plant directly in the garden after they have been hardened off. Hardening off is allowing the seedlings to become acclimatized to the outdoors slowly over approximately a two week period.
This can be an exciting time of year. One small package of seeds can yield so much! Take this time to plan out your garden, your garden containers and garden beds. See what you can start with seeds. There are so many choices from both flowers to vegetables which can help save money this garden season.
Happy seed starting!