I certainly hope you have enjoyed looking through your seed catalogs this winter. What do you have in mind that you would like to grow? Have you considered starting those plants from seeds indoors?
If so, this will give you a head start on the growing season. Starting seeds indoors will produce a small plant that can then be transplanted outdoors. These transplants will mature sooner and produce earlier than seeds sown directly in the garden. Most gardeners love to transplant vegetables. Tomatoes seem to be high on their list.
The trick is to start your seeds six to eight weeks before the frost-free date. In Shelby County, you will start those seeds in late February. You can either grow them in a container to be transplanted later or in a flat in cell packs to be planted outdoors.
Use seed-starter media that will allow for good drainage. Make sure the containers and
flats are sanitized. The containers should also drain easily. Many of the “big box” stores sell germination trays that include peat pellets for sowing seeds. These trays also have plastic lids that will hold in humidity.
As soon as seedlings have developed at least one set of true leaves and are large enough to handle, they should be transplanted to individual pots or packs. Plants that have been growing indoors under controlled conditions are susceptible to transplant shock when moved to the garden. To prevent this from occurring, they need to be “hardened off” before planting outdoors. To harden seedlings off, place them outside for a couple of hours the first day, then gradually increase the length of time they are outside by two or more hours each day.
Hardening off should be started about two weeks before planting in the garden. When
plants have grown large enough to handle easily and hardening is complete, they may be
transplanted into the garden when weather and soil conditions permit.
Good luck starting those seeds indoors! Doing so will increase variety and provide an earlier and greater yield; it is also cost-effective. If you have any questions about this process, please give me a call at 901-752-1207. I am more than happy to help!
Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune