Spring is in the air! Flowers are blooming, and it is time to plant your garden. But not outside just yet, first we have to start the seeds. For this, I turned to Diana Despain. Diana graduated from the College of Agriculture with an emphasis in Horticulture Therapy at Utah State University.
Diana believes that working in a garden is therapeutic, getting in with your hands, and eating something you grew yourself can be very satisfying. I believe that it can be for many people. But, sadly, more often than not it becomes a stressful hassle for those of us who don’t really understand what we are doing.
• First, and probably most important, is the potting mix. If you don’t have the right mix your plants can only do so well. More importantly than that, it needs to be new.
Diana said last year she ran out of the potting mix so she finished off an old bag she had in the garage from the previous year and none of the seeds planted in the old mix grew. She speculated that this was probably due to the heat and possible bacteria growing in the mix because of it.
Diana used Ferti-Lome Seed and Cutting planting mix. This is a soil-less mix that is more airy and light so it won’t condense.
• Second is how you plant the seeds. Diana said the best way to do this is to fill the bottom half of the planter section with the potting mix then place the seed on top, then pour Vermiculite over the top of the seed. Vermiculite is a potting compound used with soilless potting mixes to help maintain plant food and moisture, and is light so the sprouts can easily push their way through.
Tip: if the seed your planting is for a heavier plant such, as pumpkins or squash, push the seed down a little into the potting mix before pouring the vermiculite on top.
Also, use a planters map to keep track of what you planted and where. You kind find a printable map in the images.
• Third, now that you have your seeds planted you have to get them to sprout.
The easiest way to maintain the temperature you need is to invest in a heat lamp. Diana highly suggests doing this. If you use one of the circle lamps it will help but that kind of lamp focuses the heat in one spot more than others. If you get a good bar type plant lamp it will be more evenly distributed. Also, a heating pad to go underneath with help speed the growing process along. Pictured sprout was planted three days prior to the photo.
You will want to water your seeds twice a day. You don’t want too much water, more than a mist, less than a watering can. You can do this by poking a few holes in the lid of an old milk jug to get the desired amount. Keep a plastic lid over the sprouts warm and use condensation to your benefit.
Tip: fill water jugs beforehand so they have time to sit. This lets the chlorine in the water evaporate out, and become room temperature. You never want to water with cold or hot water.
Diana says, “Having grown up growing things, I find it relieves stress. I have great joy watching seeds or plants I start grow and respond to my caring. I talk to them and they don’t talk back! As I conducted my senior project at Sunshine Terrace, the people who came to my classes were thrilled to get their fingers in the soil. It reminded them of times past when they were able to do that every day in their yards. It really does give a real sense of accomplishment when you are able to pick that tomato, lettuce, or pumpkin. And you can share them with family and neighbors!”
I think all of us could use a little less stress in our lives. Hopefully, if you decide to grow a garden this year it can be a little less stressful and a little more relaxing. Keep your eye out for another article on your garden in a couple weeks when it’s time to transplant!