One option many gardeners have not considered is raising vegetable starts indoors from seed to be later transplanted to the garden. Indoor growing takes extra work, but allows gardeners flexibility on the varieties they may use. It can also be an enjoyable way to extend the growing season.
To successfully grow seeds indoors, three important growing conditions must be met. First, it is important to find the proper location where irrigation water can be contained to avoid damage to flooring. Second, the location must have sufficient lighting.
If a greenhouse is not available, a quality light source must be provided. An inexpensive option includes cool-white florescent bulbs mounted within six inches of the tops of seedlings. Inexpensive fixtures, often referred to as shop lights, can be purchased for $10 to $15 and suspended from chains so they can be adjusted as plants grow.
A simple frame can be constructed from PVC pipe or lumber to suspend the lights. Finally, before planting, find a warm area to grow seedlings. Most vegetable seeds germinate and grow optimally when kept between 70 and 85 F. If an area that meets these temperature requirements can't be found, waterproof electric heat mats can be purchased to warm seed trays.Â
Once these conditions are met, the next step is to obtain seeds, potting soil and growing containers. All are available from local retailers, through mail order or online. If you are unfamiliar with but interested in a particular seed variety, read the description carefully and cross reference it with other sources to determine if it will fit your needs.
Consider these growing tips.
* Use the proper soil. Two types of soil are used for growing seeds indoors. The first is germination mix. Its texture is finer than most potting soils, and it has a greater water holding capacity.
It is used to germinate seeds. The second is standard potting soil that seedlings will later be transplanted into. Many local retailers additionally carry inexpensive trays, pony-packs and other materials for starting seeds. Many of these materials can be reused for several years.Â
* Carefully time the planting. The proper time to start seeds indoors depends on when transplants should be planted outdoors. The number of weeks various crops require to grow indoors before being planted in the garden must also be considered.For example, broccoli can be planted outside in Cache Valley as early as April without additional protection.
However, six to seven weeks are required for seedlings to sufficiently mature before being transplanted outside.Â Considering these two factors, an ideal time to plant seeds indoors would be early to mid-February.
Similarly, tomatoes should be grown in flats for six to seven weeks. However, tomatoes are not planted outdoors in northern Utah until mid May or early June, so a good time to start them indoors would be late March to mid-April.
Raising transplants can be fun, but it requires practice and patience. For detailed information about starting seeds indoors, visit http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/ho-14.pdf.Â
Direct column topics to Julene Reese, Utah State University Extension writer, Logan, Utah, 84322-4900, 435-797-0810; firstname.lastname@example.org.