Ahhh Spring – Planting Season!
Hope springs eternal (bad pun – sorry!) for our next great gardening adventure. What did we learn last year? What has changed for us since we plucked the last tomato rom the vine? What changes do we want to make? What sort of “new” will we embrace? What will we do again? The slate is clean, the days are getting longer and we can hardly wait until it is warm enough to plant. The key is to get started – have a plan. If you are like us, then you have probably already been thinking about next year’s spring planting season (check out this video where we share the seed catalogs we ordered: Seed Catalogs).
**DON’T MISS THIS!** School to the bottom of this blog for a chart of soil temperatures needed for different types of vegetables.
Starting Seeds Indoors
We get to start seeds using math – simple algebra can actually apply here (who knew that we would apply those learnings in real life!!) as we need to determine when to start indoor spring planting. Check out the back of your seed packets – it will tell you roughly when you should start seeds and many varieties require different times. A few tips might help:
- Beans – those should probably just be planted when the soil and air temperature is proper. We recommend “Chitting” your seeds first (don’t know what that is? Check out our video from Facebook: Pocket Gardens) to get them to germinate – this typically helps plants thrive more quickly (that has been our experience)
- Lettuces and Greens – while you can start these early, many folks choose not too as they emerge and mature rather quickly. If you choose to start greens, we recommend starting one a week right around April 1st until you get four or five started. This will stage when your plants mature and allow you to harvest in sequence – keeping your family in fresh greens more regularly
- All other plants – we started seeds at all different times last year – we had seven different start times (six if you remove greens) and we experienced very little difference in performance. The biggest limiter we saw was pot size – cabbage seemed to break out quickly and got so leggy we had to transplant multiple times to save the plants
One final tip – plant a few seeds per pot and trim the new seedlings back to one or two once they emerge. We found that being greedy with seedlings provided no benefit – and actually led to some poor plant performance. A single strong plant is much better than several weaker ones.
Excitement sets in – your plants begin to emerge!!! Lighting becomes more important as does moisture management. Proper lights (the bulbs) and the proximity of the light to the emerging plants can play a large part in how healthy and hearty your plants are. After our experience last year, we recommend keeping one pot through the life of your seeds/seedlings. We had to transplant too many times per plant and also found that some of our seedlings got “wet feet” as our soil and drainage did not work as planned. Our best experiences was when we used biodegradable starter pots – the image below shows several varieties. Some other thoughts are your seedlings continue to thrive and survive until outdoor spring planting time:
- Drainage – as mentioned, plastic starters pots do not always allow for the best drainage (biodegradable pots help move moisture out all around – not just through the drain hole – as moisture will wick outwards through the pot) and always wet soil is not the best environment for seedlings (check out our #GardenHack for this)
- Lighting – make sure you have the right color, the right intensity and the proper duration for your lighting. Did you know that it is best to let your plants “sleep” a bit? Either set a timer or unplug your lights at night so your plants can also rest
- Wind/Breeze – we learned last year that hardening off your plants is very important for seedlings o be hearty. We actually recommend a fan (set on low) so your plants get this early and often. Change the angle frequently and do not leave it on all the time – no reason to punish those new seedlings! If you do this, your need to get plants outside before transplant will not need to be as long. You may find that you have to separate your plants to let some grow tall and strong while others will do better shorter – this means your lighting height should be adjustable in some way
As stated previously, we learned a hard lesson last year about transplanting – and it had several parts.
- While micro-pots (tiny pots often part of a multi-pot tray) are okay – but need to have a transplant at least once before going outside. This disrupts the plants and can negatively impact their growth and health. We feel that starting in large enough pots that can support the entire seedling cycle is preferable
- It is recommended here in Minnesota that you wait to plant outdoors until Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 10, 2020). We attempted to get a jump on this as our Original Garden typically has warmer soil and can support plants earlier. Our original spring planting suffered from wind damage in early May last year. We lost about 60% of what we planted to that week of stormy weather! Fortunately, we had some reserve seedlings so we still had a great gardening season despite. However, this year we will be waiting until after Mother’s Day to begin our outdoor spring planting!
- Wind Abatement/Extended Hardening Off – as stated in the Seedling section, get that fan out earlier and prepare those plants for the real world!! A couple of other options here are:
- Milk Carton protector – check out this individual plant protections #GardenHack: Wind Protection
- Temporary Greenhouse – we did a variety of episodes on how to do this last year as this would have saved Mother’s garden and the original plantings. We did use this at the end of the year and may put it back for the beginning of the year: Greenhouse Hack
Well, we hope this helps you prepare for your spring planting or next garden adventure. Our goal with our blogs, videos, etc. is to share what we have learned about gardening. For those who perhaps have not followed us for long, we started much of our gardening from a beginner’s perspective. Mother had not really gardened since Father passed – and we have helped her learn as we learned. Mistakes have been made – but that is part of the learning process!
If you are interested in learning more about our company or about our Original Garden, send us a note or visit us on Facebook. You can find out more about our raised bed gardens and the communities we serve by exploring our website.