Spring has sprung and its high time for seedlings to be in their trays. Will they sprout? Are they planted too early? Too late? Are there enough? Too many? When do they need water? When should they be transplanted? Where should the seeds come from?
What to Plant
Plant what you like to eat!
Plant things that will grow in your zone and bear fruit in a season. Zone refers to the area you live and how many months of frost-free growing you have. Zone 3, for example, has three months of growing time between the last frost of spring and the first of the fall. Zone 10 has ten months of frost-free growing. Latitude, proximity to the coasts, aspect in relation to the sun, and elevation above sea level combine to determine zone conditions. Microclimates affect the success of plants. Shady, cool spots or warm sheltered places within your yard can make a big difference to seedlings.
Zone refers to the area you live and how many months of frost-free growing you have.
Plant what will work within your limiting factors. Consider the amount of light and shade, water availability, wind exposure, soil composition, and how much time you have to devote to it. These factors can make the difference between beautiful tomatoes and wilting plants. Be honest with yourself. We have best intentions in April, busy lives in July, and we’re busier still in August when the weeds are thick and the harvest is coming on.
Don’t plant everything you want to grow. If you are only going to plant a few tomatoes or squash plants, it makes more sense to buy from a nursery or farmers’ market vendor.
Where to Source Seeds?
Look for more on this topic soon, but suffice it to say for now that we need more seed variety in this country. There are several good seed companies and they all need your support. Look for seed companies local to you. Look for seed companies that produce seed in a zone like yours. Look for open-pollinated and heirloom varieties. Buy organic seed if you can. Borrow from, and replenish, a seed library.
Look for seed companies local to you. Look for seed companies that produce seed in a zone like yours. Look for open-pollinated and heirloom varieties.
Consider the possibility of saving your own seeds and using them to get started next year. With a little planning, you can begin to breed your own varieties suited to your specific area. And you get to name your creations!
When to Plant
Many factors influence this decision. The two most important are the length of time to fruition and the length of your season. Most seed packets and catalogs list when to plant and the number of days until germination and fruition. Start some plants indoors well before the average last frost. Start hardier plants outdoors in trays. Trays are more subject to chill temperatures, and they need protection from plastic, a building, or a heat mat to produce well. Trays also need regular watering to help them maintain soil moisture.
The two most important are the length of time to fruition and the length of your season.
To get continuous production in your garden, you can seed plants every several days within the time range for each type of plant. For example, if radishes are your thing and you have a six month growing season, you can plant radishes every week. Radishes take about 30 days to harvest. You should have a regular harvest every week until it became too warm, or you tire of radishes.
Caring for Seedlings
We plant several varieties of greens in trays each spring. We fill other trays with mini-rows of brassicas, which are members of the cabbage and broccoli family. We even put beets and parsnips in trays. The ends of the mature root crops may not look perfect, but their success from a tray versus direct seeding in the soil makes it worth it.
Seedlings need light, heat, and closely regulated moisture. They need good, nutrient–rich soil for their growth. The soil should be light and fluffy, so the roots can spread out and growth healthy plants. A well-grown seedling will have more of its mass in its roots than it does the stems or leaves. The leaves and stem should be strong, have a vibrant color, and be free of blemishes.
Seedlings need light, heat, and closely regulated moisture. They need good, nutrient–rich soil for their growth.
Start seedlings close together in rows and transplant them into individual spaces. These can be individual pots or larger spaces in deeper trays. Give them a few days to adjust to the new conditions. Then harden them off by leaving the plants outdoors for longer periods of time until they adjust. Now you are ready to transplant them into their Garden Tower 2™ or permanent growing bed.