At the first monthly meeting for the Richmond Heights Garden Club last night, Ryan Barker from Gateway Greening, spoke on "Starting Seeds Indoors".
He gave a "hands on" demonstration and participants got to take home newly seeded four packs of cabbage (Copenhagen variety), Brussels Sprouts, or Cauliflower.
These "cool weather" crops should be started now to be transplanted to the garden by April 15th (the last traditional "frost date" in our area). Ryan went over the basics including containers ranging from peat pellets to styrofoam coffee cups, as long as there is a drainage hole.
He advised using a potting soil (NOT garden soil) like Promix(R) which contains peat, perlite, compost, and a wetting compound. Seeds should be planted twice as deep as they are wide and do not forget a label with date planted and variety. The most important elements are soil temperature (use a heating mat or put on top of your refrigerator or radiator) of 70 degrees and watering from above until seedlings sprout. Then begin watering from below.
Put fluorescent or "grow lights" 2-4" above the seedlings or place in your sunniest South-facing windowsill so plants get 8-14 hours of light. Keep room temperatures at 60-70 degrees and watch out for fungus or mildew.
Allow seedlings to dry out for a day or two before watering. Make sure to use a soluble fertilizer like "Jobs Organic Fertilizer" and in 4-6 weeks you will have sturdy plants to go into your garden.
Ryan says do NOT plant peas, beans, or corn in containers as these are more easily started outdoors and do NOT tolerate transplanting. Peas can be planted outdoors as early as St Patrick's Day (March 17). Squash and cucumbers should be planted outdoors May 1-15 when the soil has warmed.
The Richmond Heights Garden Club has a "First Ripe Tomato Contest" every year. It is not too early to try planting tomato seeds and growing them under lights until they can be transplanted to the garden. If you think you have the first ripe tomato of the season, contact the club! Good luck on starting seeds indoors!