It’s still winter, and in most parts of the country snow is still thick on the ground. But that doesn’t mean that it’s too early to start your garden.
Starting a Winter Vegetable Garden
Starting your seeds indoors will give you earlier vegetables and flowers. The process of germination may seem complex, but just relax and take it step-by-step, and in no time you’ll be the proud parent of some brand new seedlings.
Choose the correct work area—a surface at a comfortable height and close to a water supply with plenty of room to spread out. Assemble your equipment: seed-starting containers, starting medium or soil mix, watering can, labels, marking pen, and most importantly; your seeds.
Choosing Your Container
You can start seeds in just about any kind of container. Just make sure that you follow two simple guidelines when choosing, make sure that it will hold 1 to 2 inches of starting medium and that it has good drainage so that it won’t become waterlogged and drown your plants.
You can start seedlings in open flats, in individual sections of a market pack, or in pots. Individual containers are preferable, because the more you disturb growing roots, the more likely you are to do serious damage to the plant.
Some containers, such as peat pots, paper pots, and soil blocks, are biodegradable and can be planted directly into the garden without uprooting the plant. Other pots must be slipped off the root ball before planting.
If you are planning to remove the pots before they go in your garden, be sure to use a square or rectangular container. These make better use of space and provide much more root area than a round pot would.
Take note that individual containers dry out much faster than open flats. Excellent seed-starting systems are available from garden centers and mail-order suppliers but you can also build your own.
Below are two make-at-home seed-starting containers that are quick and simple. Before you toss out that old newspaper you should think about using it to make “single serve” seed starter pots.
Newspaper Seed Starter Pots
- Step 1: To make newspaper seed starter pots, begin by cutting bands of newspaper about twice as wide as the desired height of a pot (about 4 inches wide for a 2-inch-high pot). Wrap a band around the lower half of a jar a few times, and secure it with masking tape.
- Step 2: Then form the bottom of the pot by creasing and folding the paper in around the bottom of the jar. You can also put a piece of tape across the pot bottom to hold it more securely in place. Slip the newspaper pot off the jar.
- Step 3: Set your pots in high-sided trays with their sides touching. As you fill them with the potting mix, they will support one another. If you are not a very crafty person, you can also purchase pre-made molds!
- Step 4: Make sure that you only use the black and white print papers, none of the glossy advertisements that come with newspapers. You can also turn the pots into compost by shredding the paper and removing the plants!
Soil Block Starter Pots
Soil blocks encourage well-branched roots and produce good seedlings. I recommend that you buy pre-made Soil Block Molds to make soil blocks, because making them by hand is a messy, labor-intensive process.
- Step 1: Begin by mixing a wheelbarrow-load of potting soil.
- Step 2: Add in plenty of peat moss and water to make a thick, wet, gummy paste with the texture of peanut butter.
- Step 3: Jam the soil-block mold into the block mix, push block maker down, turn back and forth, and lift.
- Step 4: Set the filled block maker into a tray squeeze, and release.
- Step 5: Then arrange the blocks in flats and plant directly into them. Make sure that the soil blocks don’t dry out! Due to their high peat content, once they dry it is very hard to for them to absorb water again. .
- Step 6: Water from the bottom or mist gently until roots grow. Once the roots have grown and fill the blocks, they become solid and easy to handle.
Using these two simple methods can give you a great jump start to growing your own healthy nutritious foods for the year. Did you know that you don’t have to have a ton of space to grow all the produce you could possibly want? In fact, you only need a few square feet and it doesn’t even have to be outside!
Want to learn more about growing fresh food? Check out these great articles:
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