Well we have had several days with temperatures in the 80’s. Can you believe that? I am seeing the first signs of winter’s retreat and the warm days of spring may fast be approaching. Does this mean we are done with the cold weather? I can only tell you to plan on more cold weather before we get into March but that does not mean we can not start our spring gardens now. If your passion is gardening, a little cool weather will not stop you, it sure has not stopped me. Here are some things to do now so that when spring does arrive you will not be left out in the “cold”.
Start your seeds now! Tomatoes, Eggplant and Peppers started in small containers now will give you great transplants in about six to eight weeks and the cost will be far less than buying new plants. All you need are some small containers like egg cartons, old pots, or Styrofoam cups to start your young seedlings. Get some potting soil from your local garden center and get to work. Your efforts now will reward you ten fold later.
If you use egg cartons fill them with potting soil then add one or two seeds per cell. Push them into the soil ever so slightly. I use a pencil with an eraser to just push them under the soil then add a little extra soil over the top. Because egg cartons are so small, I do not like to run water over the seeds because this might displace them. Use a misting bottle with water and mist them until the soil flattens across them. Place your egg carton near a window that gets afternoon light and water when the little cells dry out. The frequency of watering will depend on how strong or how much light you receive. Keep your eye on how much water you give your plants because many people water too often. Remember, when plants are germinating they do not use much water and can go for longer periods between watering. Once the plants emerge from the soil they will begin to use more water.
One of the things that I like about growing plants from seed is that you can pick the varieties of plants you want to grow. Be sure to read the packets of seeds you buy from the garden center to be sure the varieties you pick out are varieties that will grow here and not Northern varieties that will not. Do a little research and you will find a lot of your old time varieties. If you have a computer you can try a few websites that specialize in vegetable seeds. Totally Tomatoes has an absolutely fantastic selection of great plants you will love.
You can get their catalog if you go to http://www.totallytomato.com/ecatalogs.asp. Another great website to purchase seeds from is www.heirloomseeds.com.
Heirloom seeds are seeds that have not been genetically altered in any way. If you are looking for the varieties Grandma used to plant in her garden, then this is the site you will need to go to. Beware; this time of year seed producers are getting thousands of orders and your order could possibly be delayed. If you can not get through, use the internet to find additional sources of heirloom seeds. Victoryseeds.com is another producer of heirloom seeds. Their company has been awarded Top 5 honors for their heirloom plant and vegetable seeds from the Garden Watchdogs, a directory of garden resources and companies.
When picking out plants, I try to pick out plants that will compliment each other. Differing colors and shapes help to add pizzazz to any garden. Selecting peppers for instance, green bell peppers mixed with yellows and reds add striking color as the plants mature. Plus you get the added benefit of combining these many colors in your favorite dishes once harvest time comes. Eggplant has also become another preferred plant for the garden. With purples, blacks, long, and short varieties, eggplant can add new dimension to the garden. Eggplant also has an extended season here in Floridaso look to produce many eggplants if you choose to use them in your garden.
Well, I would be remiss if I did not give you something to do in the garden right now. If you have never grown potatoes now is the time to grow them. Find some red potatoes from the grocery store and cut each of them into 4-6 squares. Make 4 or 5 mounds in the garden out of potting soil about ten to twelve inches tall. Plant the potato squares in the mound about four inches deep with the cut side down. Take care not to water too much as you can rot the potato tubers if the soil is too moist. After the potatoes start growing they will need to be fed. A good 8-0-10 fertilizer will suffice every 3-4 weeks. Potatoes take about 90-110 days to produce. Once the foliage starts to die back you can trim it away. Do not dig the potatoes for at least two weeks after that. That is all you have to do. Enjoy your potatoes.
I hope you enjoy this section on starting seeds and growing potatoes. Remember, without plants we wouldn’t be here!