Q: What is the best way to start seeds? — Shirley Beard,
San Luis Obispo
A: Eager to begin your spring planting? Although spring hasn’t quite sprung, sowing seeds early is a good way to jump-start your garden from its winter doldrums.
Begin with a soil mix that is free of weed seeds, disease and insects. It should be loose, aerated and drain well. A combination mix with soil and perlite or vermiculite works well.
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All containers and implements should be sterile. Clean containers and tools in a solution of 1 part chlorine bleach to 9 parts water and allow to air dry.
Timing is key. Plan on sowing your seeds so that upon germination the weather will allow them to be moved outdoors. Don’t start too early; although the seed itself may benefit from the indoor environment, the seedling will fare better outside.
Fill your container to 3/4 of an inch from the top and plant your seed according to the package instructions. Usually, this means that the seed is planted at a depth that is 2 to 4 times its diameter. Small seeds can be gently pressed into the soil. To maintain moisture, it is best to cover the container with a plastic bag or plastic wrap. But leave sufficient space for your seeds to sprout.
Keep seeds in a warm spot; they germinate best at temperatures ranging from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
The final step is to transition your plants to the garden. This should begin two weeks before actual planting. Expose plants to the outdoors, increasing time outside a bit each day. Reducing the amount of water will slow growth and allow for a firmer type of growth. Hardening, as this is termed, is a necessary step, for the seedling will soon need sufficient strength to hold its own.