The seeds have arrived at LifeSource and February is a great time to start planning your garden. Not only is it timely, it’s fun and it will remind you of the warm sunny days of summer. If you’re new to gardening, the wealth of information out there can be a little overwhelming. Here’s a brief guide to get you started.
Once you’ve picked out your seeds, the first stop is the back of the seed packet. There is a lot of handy information there about your new plants and their preferences. When starting your seeds, make sure you use a sterile plant mix. Using dirt from the garden can introduce insects or disease. However, you can sterilize garden dirt in your oven by baking it at 170 degrees for two hours.
Next up, sowing the seeds! You can plant your seeds in a large tray or flat, but it’s just as easy to reuse items you have around your house such as egg cartons or paper cups. If you’re reusing trays be sure to sterilize them first by soaking them in a solution of bleach water or other disinfectant for 30 minutes. Try planting the seeds in an egg shell, then when it’s time to transplant the seedlings you can put the shells directly in the ground.
If you’re unsure about how deep to sow your seeds, a good rule of thumb is to place them twice as deep as the size of the seed. Think about being able to place another seed directly on top of it. While you wait for your seeds to germinate you’ll want to keep them moist. Placing new seedlings on the window sill isn’t always a great idea. Windows are usually the coldest place during the night and the hottest during the day. This can be rough on the fragile little guys. You’ll want to find a place for them that is free of cold drafts and excessive heat, with air temperatures above 60 degrees. A table near a south facing window is ideal.
Growing plants need about 12 to 14 hours of light a day. Florescent lights work great for your seedlings. If you hang the lights from a chain you can raise them as the plants grow. Keep the lights as close as 2 inches but no higher than 4 inches above the top of the seedlings. Don’t forget to label the pots with seed type and the date sown. You can create labels by cutting up a plastic milk jug.
Once the seeds have germinated, water them as needed, letting them dry out occasionally. When the starts have developed two sets of leaves, it’s time to transplant them into 4” pots. It’s a good idea to mist the plants during the first week after transplanting to avoid damaging them before they are well established. Two weeks before planting your starts outside you should “harden” them by placing them outside for a few hours a day, gradually increasing the length of exposure.
Here is a chart adapted from almanac.com of some common plants and approximate dates to start them (both indoors or outdoors) in the Willamette Valley. Not all plants need to be started indoors and therefore won’t have an indoor date listed. Those that should be started indoors don’t have an outdoor date.
Start Seeds Indoors
Days Until Harvest
|Beets||Apr 17 – May 19||50 – 80|
|Broccoli||Mar 2 – 17||Apr 25 – May 5||55 – 90|
|Cabbage||Mar 2 – 17||Apr 21 – May 5||80 – 90|
|Carrots||Mar 24 – Apr 7||70 – 90|
|Corn||May 12 – May 19||70 – 110|
|Cucumbers||Mar 31 – Apr 14||May 5 – May 12||55 – 75|
|Kale||Mar 2 – Mar 17||60 – 70|
|Lettuce||Mar 17 – Mar 31||Apr 21 – May 12||65 – 80|
|Onions||Mar 31 – Apr 7||100 – 120|
|Peas||Mar 17 – Mar 31||90 – 110|
|Peppers||Mar 2 – Mar 17||80 – 100|
|Potatoes||Apr 28 – May 12||70 – 120|
|Spinach||Mar 17 – Mar 31||40 – 50|
|Summer Squash||Mar 31 – Apr 14||May 5 – May 12||55 – 70|
|Chard||Mar 2 – Mar 17||60|
|Tomatoes||Mar 2 – Mar 17||60 – 70|