Magazine article Sunset

Early, Easy, and Inexpensive.Summer Garden from Seed Started Indoors

Magazine article Sunset

Early, Easy, and Inexpensive.Summer Garden from Seed Started Indoors

Article excerpt

Flower seeds are still the greatest landscaping bargain of all. For the 1,300 plants that produce the stunning display in the 1,000 square feet of raised beds shown at left, the bill for seeds was about $30. (To buy the same plants as small seedlings would have cost about $260; for plants in 4-inch pots, the tub would have been $1,300 to $2,000.)

You don't have ahave a greenhouse, even for a bursting-at-the-seams garden like this. But you do need to plan ahead. If you order seeds now, then supply the right growing conditions at the right time (check the Sunset Western Garden Book for when to start particular plants in your area), you'll have all the vegetables and flowers your garden can hold.

One of the most effective nongreenhouse systems we've seen is that used by Seattle gardener Jan Vonada, pictured here. Her goal is to make seed starting as easy as possible, with little or no fertilizing or transplanting along the way. A modest investment in seeds ordered in January rewards her with a colorful garden show all summer, as well as herbs and greens for her kitchen.

Sowing the seed

You can start seeds in conventional flats, as many people do, or use 4-inch plastic pots and cell-packs, as Mrs. Vonada does (transplants pop out of cell-packs more easily). Plants that get relatively big by the time they're garden-ready (tall, zinnias, for example) go into the pots; she sows those that stay smaller (such as French marigolds) in scell-packs.

After filling the containers with commercial potting mix, Mrs. Vonada tamps it down with a fork, then waters lightly. Seeds are sown directly on top of the mix. Two seeds to into each cell, with the weaker seedling to be removed after both seeds have sprouted. Up to five seeds go in each 4-inch pot, with all but the strongest one or two seedlings removed later on.

You can sow all but very fine seeds by picking one up between finger and thumb and gently dropping it onto the soil surface. Mrs. Vonada pours fine seeds from the packet onto a spoon, then pushes as many as she needs off the end of the spoon with a fingernail.

Watering and feeding

Once seeds are sown, sprinkle potting soil over them to the depth recommended on the seed packet. Then lightly tamp the soil with a fork and mist it. By misting until the soil surface is saturated, you dampen soil above the seed without washing the seed out of place. From then on, you need to water only when the soil starts to feel dry or when seedlings start to look wilted. …

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