Spring Steps for Prepping and Planting Your Garden

By Kristin Boza

Whether you’re looking to plant flowers or vegetables in your home garden, now is the time to prep your seedlings so they have time to flourish before outdoor planting. Scott Ware, of Scott Ware Landscape Design and Professional Garden Care, believes that growing seedlings from scratch at home can be an excellent choice.

For garden plants not found in retail nurseries, starting with seeds is integral; many types of flowers and vegetables are only available in seed form, according to Ware. “[Nurseries] are pressed to sell as many plants as possible and therefore tend to restrict themselves to the ‘Top 40’ when selecting their stock,” Ware said. “This trend has only worsened with the invasion of the landscape industry by the ‘big box’ stores. These behemoths have pushed many local nurseries out of business and made the survivors even more cautious.”

While growing your own seedlings is a lot more labor intensive than purchasing an established plant, the pay-off is worth it. If you didn’t start your seedlings using the how-to guide in last month’s Villager, you can start them now.  Ware suggests using some egg cartons and a bag of potting soil. “A limited number of seedlings can be grown on window sills, provided you keep them away from cold window glass and give them a quarter turn a day to keep them growing up and not sideways,” he said. “Those who commit to larger numbers will have to move to a dedicated table and some grow lights.”

Keep a close eye on the plant’s growth, and transplant them into a larger container once they begin to outgrow the egg carton. “As planting time approaches, take the seedlings outside during the day to ‘harden’ them, then bring them back inside at sundown,” Ware said. This gives the plants the opportunity to strengthen against the natural elements.

Be aware of when each type of seedling should be planted outside, as the timing varies greatly. “Many plants are categorized as hardy, semi-hardy, tender, and very tender; each has a different plant date in relation to the average last frost date,” he said. “This year, we are unfortunately wondering if our last frost date will be in late June, but we may at last be through the worst of our fourth coldest spring on record.”

Ware recommends researching when to plant your seedlings, but advises that pansies and petunias are typically able to be planted sooner than other varieties. While Ware already planted his snow peas, spinach and parsley seeds, he warns that tomato plants shouldn’t even be considered until at least mid-May. Raised beds are recommended to help with drainage in wet weather and speed the warming of the soil, according to Ware.

Make sure to prepare your gardens by removing debris from last fall and winter, and working the soil then amending it with compost or other nutrients. Remember to plan where to plant! Some plants require lots of room to sprawl, some need to climb, some need a lot of sun, and some need shade. Whether you’re planting from seeds you’ve grown or plants you’ve purchased (remember that Steuber Florist starts most of the plants in their greenhouses from seed!)– or a combination – take time to ask the experts if you need gardening advice.