Seedlings are SPRINGing up!
Updated: Feb 28
Spring is almost here! It’s time to dream about what you want to grow. I may want that stunning Romanesco cauliflower or those homegrown Brussel sprouts, but in my region they only leave me frustrated. Start with crops grown best for your region and your harvest should be significant as you follow planting directions on seed packets and seedling labels. If in doubt, go with crops whose seed packets and labels bear the prestigious label “All-America selection”, or that clearly state, “disease resistant variety”. As an organic gardener you need all the help you can get against those diseases and pests which can finish off a weary, and hungry, gardener.
Good initial crops to start with are leafy greens such as kale, lettuce, spinach, and others as they offer a high-return harvest. I always encourage new gardeners to start with the fall/winter/spring (FWS) garden in my zone. Often, they want to start with the classic summer garden, but this season can be fraught with insect problems, diseases, and watering. The FWS garden is a good way to get your gardening feet wet without having to deal much with these summertime issues. These crops are best sown on or around Labor Day and again around Valentine’s Day. These dates will vary depending on your zone. Connecting holidays with planting times is often the best way to remember what to plant when.
And last but not least, try to plant seedlings when you have a string of cool and overcast days, perhaps with rain setting in. They will adapt much better under these conditions than if planted when it is hot and sunny. If sub-freezing temperatures are forecast for a few days I will cover my FWS bed in winter. I make half hoops out of PVC pipes bent and inserted into rebar that I have hammered into the ground on either side of my raised bed. Then I drag a large clear plastic sheet over it (6 mil thickness on Amazon) and hold it in place with bricks. Very simple. It is so very gratifying to pull back that cover on a wintry day and harvest lettuce for a dinner salad. Be sure to remove the cover once the temperature rises or else your plants will bake. You can also cover them with a light fabric row cover instead, or both for super cold weather, which I have done more than once.
Water your seedlings in well and keep them watered during dry spells. Keep seeds moist until germination. That means you will have to water them at least daily if not both morning and afternoon during hot weather. If they dry out just once during the process of germination, they may not make it. This is the most intensive time of care, but a proper mulch layer will take over for you soon enough!