The right proportion of light and heat will produce healthy seedlings for the spring garden.
For gardeners who can't wait for spring and planting time, starting seeds indoors may ease the pain. To help you decide when to begin planting, remember the average frost free date in this area is April 20.
Starting your own plants involves three rather different processes -- germination, growth and acclimation. Many gardeners make the mistake of trying to do all three under the same general conditions. Remember to change the environment at each stage.
After placing the seed in containers filled with a seed-starting mix, place until germination starts (seedlings emerge). This does not have to be in the light for most seeds. Warm temperatures encourage more rapid and even germination of more seeds.
After seedlings emerge, move the containers to a cooler location with plenty crops. Supply a light liquid fertilization using an all-purpose type fertilizer.
One of the most common problems in growing your own transplants is developing a tall, spindly transplant instead of one that is short and stocky. Tall, spindly plants are caused by a combination of too low light along with too warm temperatures so it is necessary to lower the temperature or increase the light. Often locations where the plants are placed in homes, such as windowsills, are very warm. A sunny porch or back room where the heat Increasing light is difficult in a windowsill location because the light is usually only available for part of the day. Using artificial lights and leaving the lights on 24 hours a day is a solution. Make sure the lights can be lowered as close to the plants as possible to increase light available to the young seedling plants.
About one week before setting plants into the garden, begin to move the containers to an outside location during the day, gradually expose them to cooler temperatures and gradually reduce watering. This acclimation process reduces the "shock" of sudden transplanting to the garden from a warmer location.
Growing your own plants gives you a jump-start on your spring garden and saves you money in the process.
The garden calendar is sponsored by K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County Office and written this week by Dottie Daugherty, master gardener. For more information call the extension office at 843-7058, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.