How Often Should A 2 Year Old Go To Nursery Your Garden – The How to Guide For Seedlings and Transplants

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Your Garden – The How to Guide For Seedlings and Transplants

With all this gardening advice, I may surprise you with this confession: I very rarely start seeds indoors and plant outdoors.

While seeds are definitely cheaper than transplants, I have to admit that I have had very limited success with starting seeds indoors. Starting seeds indoors requires a little more than sticking a seed in the dirt and then waiting for it to grow! All too often, my seeds didn’t take off, or they got moldy, or I simply forgot to water them. Then I have to start again after 6 weeks of waiting 6 weeks and having ugly peat pots everywhere, only to end up in the nursery buying transplants anyway!

I know this admission probably disqualifies me from “expert gardener status”, but that’s okay. I can’t help but like to buy the plants that started for me. For one thing, I know they are suitable for my area and most often come with a nursery warranty (mostly on shrubs, not vegetables, but some places offer a warranty). They have been cared for by someone who knows more and probably cares more, so I know they are strong and healthy. I don’t need to harden them and I really hate thinning. It’s right up there with weeds, and since I can’t avoid weeds, I decided to avoid thinning 🙂 And I have to admit, I love the instant gratification of planting those big healthy plants! I guess I’m a lazy perfectionist.

However, you may choose to try starting seeds indoors, and if you do, there are a few things you’ll need to know to be successful.

When to start seeds

You will need to start these small seedlings 4-6 weeks before the last frost in your area. To find out what that would be for your area, you can find the last frost date here. Whatever you do, don’t catch spring fever and plant your garden before the last frost or you will most likely lose your precious plants. If we have a period of very heavy rains, I will also wait a little longer so that my tender plants don’t get waterlogged and damaged. You can also download this handy seed Starting Chart (PDF file). This would be a handy thing to put in your gardening notebook for next year.

Don’t buy all kinds of expensive little containers and kits. You don’t need them! The reason you start from seed is to save money, right!? There are several ways to save money as you can start seeds indoors very cheaply. You can start the seeds in toilet paper rolls (instructions here) or even better in old newspapers (instructions here and here). Newspaper flower pots can be planted directly in your garden, flower pot and so on. I have used these before with success. I also used egg cartons. Cut off the top of the egg carton, poke holes in the bottom of the box and plant. Line the top with plastic and pebbles and use them on the drainage tray.

How to start them

After you’ve chosen your containers, you’ll need a catch basin to place them in and protect the surface underneath. You can use clean, old yogurt cups, or you can buy a larger tray to hold them all. If you buy a larger tray it will usually come with a plastic cover which is handy for keeping your seeds warm. I’ve also used cardboard pancakes, like the ones soda or canned soup packets come in. You can go directly to your grocer and ask for a pair. They are usually happy to give them to you. I stored my grocery and shopping bags (big ones are good) and put the box inside. You can trim it to fit and tape it to hold. You can also pick up some drain racks from the dollar store or even the tubs you use to wash dishes and use them. Remember to always try to do it as cheaply as possible. One of the goals of your garden should be to save money instead of spending it!

You will also need potting soil. You can get it at your local nursery or garden center, and you can probably find it cheaper at places like Wal-Mart or Kmart. A soil that contains peat is good because it will offer you the drainage you need. Make sure you get the soil. You can buy an inexpensive brand name if it is labeled as potting soil or seed starting soil. Place a section of soil about 1/4 inch to the top of the container and lightly moisten it with a spray bottle. Keep this spray bottle nearby as you will be using it to mist your plants. Pouring water on them will damage the delicate roots and often provide too much water, causing your plants to mold or drown.

Check your seed packet for specific instructions for starting indoors. Some seeds need to be chopped or soaked in water overnight to facilitate germination. Place 2-3 seeds in each pot, evenly spaced. Push the seeds down and cover with the remaining soil. Lightly mist again. Make sure you label the seeds somehow, popsicle sticks work well. Mark the date you planted them on the stick so you know when they should germinate. Use a permanent marker so it doesn’t wash off when wet. Now you will need to keep these pots warm, in the sun and out of drafts. To keep them warm, you can simply cover them with plastic wrap or use a plastic tray cover if you have one. Be sure to leave room for breathing as seeds need oxygen to germinate. Don’t forget to mist the plants often. You want the soil to stay evenly moist, but not soggy. Be careful that your soil is not too dry or too wet.

If you don’t have a bright sunny spot for your plants, you can use a fluorescent light over your plants to mimic sunlight and heat. You can usually get a lamp to hang on plants, ask around, or get them cheap at Walmart. Use a 40 watt bulb and make sure the light can move higher as your plants grow. It should be about 4″ above your plants. I’ve always had sunny windows so I’ve never used this method, although we’ve hatched chickens before and needed a lamp, but I’m sure that’s a different matter!

Once your seedlings emerge and get bigger (check your seed packet when this should happen and compare it to the date on the label) you will need to thin them out. You can usually do this when they have two or three leaves or when they become crowded in their small pots. You will need to transplant each plant into its own pot. They will get bigger and bigger until one day you can place them in your garden!

If you notice them becoming “leggy”, that means they are thin or scratchy, not getting enough sunlight and you may need to implement the lamp method I mentioned. Thin scraggly plants are not healthy and prone to disease, and you don’t want that after all the hard work!

Keep your pots safe

Before starting the seeds indoors, have you considered a place to keep them safe? When I had cats and was ambitious and started seeds at home, my cats were absolutely destructive with my little trays. They drank the water, used it for a trash can, and tried to dig a little in it themselves. One year my little kids decided to help me out and moved around all my plant markers to “make it look nicer”. You’ll have to protect those little seedlings from kids, pets, and sometimes even husbands!

Subsequent planting

As I said before, when planning your garden, plant only what you plan to use. When starting with seeds, don’t sow all the little seeds in the seed packet or you’ll end up with more vegetables than you could ever need or want! However, you can plan for a subsequent plant. This is a method where you plant the seeds at different times during the growing season so that your plants don’t all mature at once. You can do this with transplants as well, although not as successfully, by buying transplants at different times. Hit the nursery when the end of year sales are on and get more plants!

When you plant this way, you can be sure to have certain vegetables throughout the season, not just at one time. It’s a bit more complicated and you have to have a plan and be diligent, but it’s worth the extra work. Simply start with some seeds, say 6-10 of one vegetable, one week, then do another the next week. Be sure to date your plant tags so you can track them. Using this method, you will have a continuous harvest of this particular vegetable.

Hardening off

Once your plants are established and growing well, you will need to harden them off. You cannot take a plant and transplant it directly into the garden. They may go into shock and die. Hardening is simply the gradual exposure of plants to the elements. About two weeks before you want to plant, start by taking the pots outside in the warm heat of the day and leaving them outside for 1 hour, then increase to 2, then 3 until they are outside most of the day. Finally, you leave them overnight, ideally a week before planting. Keep an eye out for heavy rain, very cold nights and frost warnings, and if any of these are expected, don’t forget to bring your plants. Again, also make sure to keep animals and children away from your pots. Keep them in an area where pets can’t knock them over, knock them over, or dig them up.

All those extra seeds

Seed companies like to tell you that your seeds are only good for one growing season. It is not true. You can store seeds for years and still plant them. If you started with some seeds, you’ll probably have a lot left over. Simply close the package tightly and stick it in your garden journal. Baseball card pockets usually work well for them. Keep them dry and out of direct sunlight. Keep an eye out for end of season sales and stock up on seeds for next year.

This is too much work, I want a transplant!

OK, so now that you know what seeding involves, you’ve decided to transplant. I understand 🙂

You still need a plan. Never go to nursery without one, or you’ll fall in love with all the beautiful budding plants and overbuy them. Make sure you have a list of what you want and how much you want and shop wisely.

Transplants are more expensive, but I feel they are worth it. However, it doesn’t have to break your budget. You can play smart and get them much, much cheaper.

First, find out if your local high school has a vocational horticulture program. Many times yes and they will have a greenhouse. Students will do all the seedlings for you and you can buy transplants. This is a very cheap way to get transplants as they usually sell them for half the price (or less) than the garden centre. The variety may be smaller, but you can fill in the gaps at your local nursery.

Another way is to buy just a few plants and wait for a sale to get more. It’s a great way to plant a following and save money. Lowe’s, Home Depot and Wal Mart have decent garden centers and most of the time they will be cheaper than a nursery. As with groceries, know your prices to get the best deal.

You can also split packages with a friend. You may not want 6 tomato plants. If you split the package with someone, you can get what you want and save money.

You can befriend the local nursery and also trade with them if you have time. They may need short-term help and offer you a significant discount in exchange.

You can also use a free cycle. Freecycle.org is a forum where you can post and get free stuff in your area. You can ask for what you need and you might be surprised what others give you. Also check out craigslist.org for others who have gardening supplies for cheap and even some people give away. Don’t forget EBay too. You can search in your local area and also order seeds from many sellers there.

Sources for seeds

I have always bought my seeds from places like Wal mart or K Mart. They have a great selection and are cheap. If you want heirloom plants or a specific plant, you can order from a catalog. If you google what you’re looking for, I’m sure you’ll find many. I order bare roots and shrubs from Four Seasons Nursery and have been very satisfied in the past. I have been using them for several years and they have a great warranty on their products, fast shipping and great customer service.

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