Grow your gardens from seeds
Tender kale leaves, some red and green mesclun mixed lettuces, crispy purple carrots, a snip of dill and my salad was ready. Dressed with tangy Meyer lemon vinaigrette, I delighted in this healthy, simple salad, all the more delicious because I grew each ingredient and harvested just before eating.
Growing vegetables from seeds may seem complicated and not worth the bother, but the rewards are great. Consider the wide selection of varieties not sold in markets. Then there’s the economy — one packet of seeds, even deluxe ones, cost less than purchased produce or nursery packs of plant seedlings. But you might think that there are more seeds in a packet than your household can use. True, but seeds, properly stored, can last for several years. Then there’s the fun of sharing surplus garden bounty with friends and family.
Renee Shepherd is one of America’s leading seed experts. Growing plants from seeds for several decades, she is founder and owner of Renee’s Garden, a successful Internet and mail order company headquartered in Felton, Calif., specializing in unusual and heirloom seeds.
She has suggestions for successful seed growing.
• Follow package directions. What seems like a no-brainer is sometimes overlooked by eager gardeners. Shepherd says she put much time and energy into creating this useful information.
• Pick the right seeds for the right planting time.
• Prepare garden spot or planting container. Use seed starting mix for containers instead of potting mix because the finer texture helps tiny seeds get their start.
• If you’re planting into the garden, include some organic amendment and work soil so it is finely textured. Scatter seeds rather than dropping them in clumps. One way is to mix seeds with a little fine sand and sprinkle from a salt shaker. Or place white toilet paper in rows, sprinkle seeds, then lightly cover with your finely amended soil. Keep seeds moist, but not wet.
• The tricky part for many gardeners is thinning seedlings after they emerge. Even experienced gardeners can balk at removing healthy plants. But not doing so results in overcrowded plants, which can get diseases. Large seedlings like squash can be potted and shared. Lettuce seedlings can be tossed into salads.
• Begin fertilizing when seedlings get their second set of leaves and again, follow product directions.
Young plants need moisture, but not too much. More seedlings are killed from kindness than neglect. Seedlings need to grow strong roots. Also, too much water can lead to soil fungi and diseases.
The fun increases at harvesting. Varieties like mesclun mixes and kale can be harvested while they grow. Cut or remove outer leaves. If you grow cucumbers or beans, tie to supports like poles or fences. Watch as plants grow so you pick vegetables while young and tender.
Keep fertilizing every few weeks or monthly, depending on variety and fertilizer. Watch for insect pests including snails or slugs. You can protect plants with non-toxic sprays, baits or traps.
For more information about these and other varieties, visit www.reneesgardens.com.
Karen Dardick is an Adams County Master Gardener.
Here is this month’s garden calendar, courtesy of Mississippi State University:
April garden calendar
• Divide violets, shasta daisies, liriope, ajuga, mums and other perennials.
• Plant okra, melons, peas, corn, beans, eggplant, cucumbers and tomatoes.
• Set out basil.
• Set out summer annuals if danger of frost is past: ageratum, allysum, begonias, geraniums, dianthus, celosia, marigolds, moss rose, petunias, Impatiens, coleus and caladiums.
• Plant summer and fall blooming bulbs: callas, cannas, dahlias, gladiolus and gloriosa lilies.
• Sow zinnias for early summer blooms.
• Fertilize tomatoes with 10-10-10
• Remove any freeze damaged and dead wood.
• Prune azaleas during or after blooming. Remove faded flowers from kurume azaleas.
• Prune flowering shrubs after they finish blooming. If pruning can be done while the shrub is flowering, the trimmed off parts can be brought indoors for floral displays.
• Disbud roses and peonies for specimen flowers.
• Always mulch in new plantings to help assure success.
• National Arbor Day is the fourth Friday of April.
• Paint and repair garden furniture and other hard construction (bird bath, bird houses, mailbox, deck, etc.).
• Buy azaleas in bloom to be sure of color.
• Ajuga, alyssum, bleeding-heart, candytuft, columbine, daffodil, daisy, daylily, forget-me-not, grass pinks, iris, jacob’s ladder, lily-of-the-valley, pansy, phlox, divaricata, primrose, ranunculus, scilla, shooting star, sweet william, thrift, tulip, vinca, violet, azaleas, beauty bush, deutzia, lilac, spireas, tamarisk, viburnum, weigela, yellow jasmine, dogwood, redbud and most flowering trees.