IIt may seem too early to think about your kitchen garden. But if you want to grow your own vegetable from seed, it’s time for some, and a few weeks away for other vegetables.
Step one is to search in some online seed catalogs to find some unique vegetables to grow. In my garden I do not plant orange carrots, but red, yellow, purple, white and many other types of carrots. I’m not trying to grow vegetables that you can find in the grocery store, but different types that are just more delicious and fun to eat.
By starting so early, you can start your own plants from seed instead of buying transplants. An advantage of starting your own seedlings from seeds is that you have a larger selection of plants in seed packets than as transplants at a nursery, or you can order seeds from many suppliers of garden seeds. You may have already received directories by mail. If not, then google just vegetable seeds. There can be five different varieties of tomato transplants in a nursery, but they can have 10 or more different types of tomato seeds, and if you search a little, you can find hundreds of different tomato types.
Another benefit of starting transplants is that I know people who start their tomatoes so early that they are large enough to be in a gallon container or milk cartons in mid-April. These plants can have tomatoes already on the plants before they are even planted outside, giving the gardener a long season of tomatoes.
Growing seed transplants can be cheaper. You can buy a packet of seeds, with enough seeds for many years, for about the same price as a single transplant. But considering your time, water, fertilizer and light, it can be more expensive. One of the biggest disadvantages of starting your own transplants is that you want to grow too many plants. Most people want to start 20 or 30 plants from seed. An average family only needs about four tomato plants. These four plants give you more than enough fresh tomatoes. I think I need to plant pepper seeds extra early, especially the warmer varieties, they seem to grow slower in the beginning.
But you can still start late winter and early spring seeds now. This includes snow peas, cauliflower, broccoli, beets and carrots. Beets and carrots are probably best planted directly in the garden in a few days
Here are 10 quick and easy steps to start seeds and grow your vegetables for transplants.
1 – Soak your seeds overnight in a small glass or even in a low saucer.
2 – Fill your container, egg cartons or small pots with soil within a quarter of an inch of the top, and add water to moisten all the soil. I use a bag of potting soil for this step.
3 – Put a few seeds in each container and cover with a fine layer of potting soil. Do not mix different seedlings in the same container when they are small, they are all similar.
4 – Place all the containers in a low saucepan. Cover the pan and containers with clear plastic or use a large clear plastic bag and place the pot and containers in the bag. Punch a few holes in the plastic so that fresh air can enter the bag. The plastic will retain moisture and you will not need to water the plants as often. Place the container under the light or in the south window.
5 – In a few days, the seeds should germinate. Remove the plastic after the seeds begin to germinate. If you leave the seedlings in the plastic after they germinate, you can cause a disease called “damping”, which will kill the seedlings.
6 – Only water the seedlings when they need water, and continue to give them plenty of light. Check the soil with your finger, if the soil is dry about half an inch into the soil, it is time to water.
7 – When the seedlings grow about two centimeters high, remove all the seedlings except the strongest ones, leaving one plant per. container. Fertilize the plants with a liquid fertilizer of about half the strength of the recommended amount.
8 – When the seedlings become too large for the container, they can be transplanted into larger containers, such as milk cartons or one-liter soda bottles with the top cut off and holes in the bottom.
9 – About two weeks before planting them outside, move the plants to a cooler place, but continue to give the plants plenty of light. If you move the plants from 70 degrees house temperature to 40 degrees night temperatures, the plants die.
10 – A week before the plants are to be planted, move them to a patio and cover with plastic at night to harden the seedlings.
If you start your own transplants, you can get a better selection of vegetables. It’s also a great activity to get the whole family involved in gardening.
If you are not planning to start your own seeds, that’s OK, and for most beginners it may be easier not to start your own transplants. But the time of planting is important. Remember that you will start finding tomato transplants in some nurseries long before they can be planted outside.
So remember the frost date for the Antelope Valley, which is April 17th. Remember that if you plant before the frost date without special frost protection, you are gambling with the life of your vegetable plants.