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Planting Your Seeds, What You Need to Know
January 23, 2012

(A few more winter pictures to share with you.)

This time of year, the Coyotes become more vocal.

Quite often on my nightly walks I will hear a chorus of yelps and howls.

Especially when they hear a siren.

Sometimes they sound very close, while other times they are off in the distance.

Talk about success of a certain species, the coyote is living proof.

This one time symbol of the 'Old West' now covers much of North America

Days are becoming noticeable longer now.

Yes, minute by minute daylight is growing longer.

Winter seems to have finally arrived, as we have had snow on the ground for the better part of two weeks and some sub zero temperatures during the night.

That hasn't happened around here this winter, until now.

Snow has also given me a good dose of bird activity.

If you know me at all, you know I can spend a whole day simply watching and admiring birds.

Even if you aren't a fan of winter (and I'm not a huge fan), you really have to appreciate the beauty and soft quiet snow adds to the landscape.

A recent day out in the snow and nature was breath taking (pictures don't do it justice).

Yes, I said Wow more than once and thanked our Creator for his handy work.

I don't know if I'm getting more mellow with age, or if my eyes and heart are finally opening up to the 'Natural Beauty' Creation has given us on a daily basis.

To really appreciate the natural world, it must become a love affair of sorts.

Poetry without words.

Give it a try sometime.

That said, I hope winter doesn't out stay its welcome.

This week, we go over the check list of what you will need to get your seeds planted and off to a healthy start.


Okay, your seeds are ready.

You have what you want, (maybe waiting on an order or two) you've done your homework.

You have your planting containers, planting mix.

You've found a nice place or places for your seeds (babies) to grow.

You have adequate and (even more) lighting.

Your ready to go.

Heat mats, or a way to maintain a nice warm location, a greenhouse or a room quarantined and off limits to anyone and everything else.

That's right, this is 'Your Nursery'.

While some seeds recommend certain temperatures, 68-70 degrees seems to work well for most seeds (it does for me).

This allows you to plant various seeds at the same time and in the same tray.

A low temperature is often used as a minimal for germination.

Often, a minimal temperature is mentioned for germination.

Only when it recommends a cool location or cool dark location, will I place in a cool spot.

Sometimes a warmer heat (75-80 degrees) will speed up germination.

For most of us, it is our usual temperatures we keep in our home (I still lower mine during the night).

Let's have some fun.

Just think we get to play in the dirt in January and February.

We get to smell that wonderful aroma once again.

Dirt under the fingernails.

Your own grown up playhouse so to speak.

Yes, it as okay to get dirty, and we don't have to wait for spring.

Now, let's get to planting some seeds.

One thing nice about planting your own seeds, you can choose from hundreds of varieties and you can find that one unique plant you remember as a child but can't find in nurseries or garden centers.

You can make sure you grow your seedlings organically.

You can plant as many or as few as you choose.

If you haven't started seeds indoors before, now is a good time to think about it.

With some basic equipment and a little free space, anyone can't plant there own seeds, even if it is a single patio tomato.

In time, the cost will be just a few pennies a plant.

Be patient and learn from your failures (we all have them).

Typically, just about any container can be used for planting seeds as long as it has proper drainage add drain holes.

However, in this case, bigger isn't better.

Cell packs:

Small plastic, black containers, (3-4-6cells) work well.

Cells should be 2 to 3 inches deep (about 5 to 7+ cm).

You can purchase new, or like many of us, we recycle until they can fall apart.

Small peat pots, or if you plant on keeping a plant in a 4" until transplanting, skip a step and plant your tomato seeds in small pots.

Yogurt cups and similar containers can be used.

Some suggest old egg cartons.

However, I find them egg cartons to be too shallow to establish a good root system, plus they dry out to quickly.

Plastic cover:

You can usually find clear plastic, dome like covers that fit over flats and trays.

These work as tiny greenhouses.


These tops will fry your plants if you don't crack them open when seedlings are sitting in a window or on the porch on mild days.

You can use clear plastic wrap (Saran Wrap) to cover trays.

Because my space is limited, I must limit what I plant.

For me, the cover of choice are various sized clear plastic sandwich and freezer bags.

I place a cell pack in sandwich bags and I can place multiple cells or pots in larger bags.

By keeping it partially unzipped, I can control condensation and no unsightly wet stains.

Martie in Ohio says she uses the clear shower caps for single units.

Trays (also called flats):

Trays should come without drain holes and are the perfect way to handle a bunch of cell packs.

You can water efficiently from the bottom (not disturbing seeds and seedlings.

And drain off excess water after your containers have had a good drink.

Recycled and lead free miniblinds make great labels or plant markers.

Inexpensive plastic ware works well also.

Cut up yogurt cups or whipped topping containers into small strips.

You are limited only by your imagination.


Natural lighting is best, but who has 12 to 16 hours of solar lighting a day?

Especially This time of year.

Insufficient light can be a downfall for many a would be seed planter and gardener.

Your seedlings stretch and develop weak stems as they make every effort to stretch toward the light.

Give your plants plenty of light during these short and often cloud filled days.

To grow the strongest seedlings, grow them under fluorescent light for a good 15 to 16 hours per day.

"Cool white" tubes measure 2 to 4 feet and shop light fixtures work really well.

You may also have a fancy set up made just for this purpose.

Pay attention now.

Keep your seedlings an inch or two just below the lights, and raise the lights or lower your plants as they grow.

Incandescent (Edison lights) bulbs don't throw off a proper light, and they do throw off too much heat and this again will cook your seedlings if they get too close.

You've come to far to let this happen.


I suppose I should have started with this, but it is so important, I wanted you to read this now and retain it.

A good starting mix is vital.

Even if you do everything else according to plan, you start off on the wrong foot if you use a poor quality seed starter, potting soil, or dirt from your garden.

A good commercial seed-starting-mix can be found in most garden centers.

Seed-starting-mixes are soil-less blends of organic matter, designed to retain some moisture, and not pack down.

Heavy, packed soil blocks off oxygen needed for root growth and wet soil cause root root and dampening off issues.

Stick with a good seed-starting-mix.

Dampening Off:

Seedlings sometimes wilt and die almost over night.

Sometimes your seeds never sprout.

The main culprit is caused by "dampening off" disease.

A disease caused by fungi that attack when the soil is kept too moist or seedlings are stressed by bad lighting.

To reduce this problem, keep seedlings close to the lights and take care not to over water.

For a bit of added protection, cover your seeds with "Milled Sphagnum Moss"

Research shows that Milled Sphagnum Moss contains a bacteria that competes with the dampening off fungus,and also secretes an antibiotic compound to prevent growth of the fungus.

This is not your typical sphagnum moss and is purchased in small bags.

Look for "No DampOff Seed Starter" at garden centers.

Congratulations, new seedlings are popping through everyday.

As soon as you see the first sprouts, remove the plastic cover and place under your lights or in a south window.

When your seedlings produce their first set of true leaves (second set if counting the baby leaves), you may begin to transplant into larger pots if that is your plan.

Now and only now do you start to fertilize or feed your plants with a diluted solution and do this every other week (no more than one a week).

There is never a need to fertilize seedlings for the first week or so.

When it is time for your plants to move outside, always harden them off for a week or two.

(More on hardening off later on.)

So many of you have your own systems that work.

Again, many readers are new to gardening and these tips will help you out as long as you follow the guidelines.

One more tip

Melissa from Grand Rapids, MN

My advice for those new to seed starting is to keep a log of when you plant each seed so you can make adjustments in the future. I know I don't remember from year to year when to sow my flower and veggie seeds indoors without consulting my notes. New seed starters should also realize that different variables, like the temperature in the room you are growing in, will affect the germination time, and plant growth rate. Each year is a new learning process, even for experienced growers.

Melissa, another good reason to keep a journal.

Thank you so much.

As you plants grow, we may have other tips and information for you.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

Be nice to yourself. This isn't just a warm-fuzzy idea, it's a scientific principle. Positive self-talk paves the way for authentic productivity and success.

Michelle Tillis Lederman, Author "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Romans 12:2 (ESV)

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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