By Kristin Boza
Spring always seems to sneak up on people, but gardeners know that the time to start growing is now. Many gardeners begin growing their flowers and vegetables from seeds, right in their own homes, so they’re at a decent size by the time the weather warms up for transplanting outdoors.
Starting your garden indoors is a great opportunity to get the kids involved in a fun project.
Scot Steuber of Steuber Florist and Greenhouses, 2654 W. 111th St., and his team have been hard at work cultivating a variety of flower seeds within the confines of the controlled greenhouse environment. He said while it’s advantageous to start now to establish a decent root system, it’s important to create the right conditions are met at home to ensure the success of the plant.
“You need the correct temperature, natural light, and you have to keep the soil or growing medium relatively moist. A mister bottle is a great idea to keep limit the amount of water in the seed cups,” Steuber said. “If you have a grow light, you can grow seeds anywhere in your home. Or, place some Saran wrap or small panes of glass over the seed trays to recreate the greenhouse effect.”
Steuber says that humidity, moist soil and a warmer room temperature are essential to growing plants from seeds indoors. But he warns that you should be aware of the specific plant’s needs — some varieties, like petunias, prefer to be kept at cooler temperatures. “Garden vegetables and herbs are great for cultivating indoors, and you could even grow herbs year round.”
Here are a few other tips to get you — and your kids — started on the planting season:
Start with small containers, like the flats found in a gardening store or an egg carton, and ensure they have holes at the bottom for proper drainage.
Use a soil-less potting mix to eliminate the chance of mold or bacteria growth.
Choose your seeds, and follow the instructions to determine how deep they should be planted. If kids are involved, consider choosing quick-growing plants such as zinnias, cosmos or sunflowers.
Water as directed with a misting bottle to avoid disrupting the seeds. Don’t let the seeds get too wet, however.
Cover with plastic wrap tented up with popsicle sticks. Be sure to loosen the wrap as the seeds begin to grow so the plants don’t get stuck.
Steuber recommends placing the planted seeds near (but not too near!) a radiator to ensure they stay warm.
Once seeds begin to germinate, place them by a window or grow lamp.
Transfer the seedlings to a deeper container once they reach a few inches tall. This enables the roots to establish and grow stronger.
Once the weather gets warm enough (Steuber recommends around Memorial Day), it’s time to transfer them outdoors to a pot or in the ground.
If caring for seeds sounds like too much work, head to Steuber’s this May for some already-carefully cultivated plants ready to be placed into the ground.
Seed Planting Guide
Use this guide to know when to plant seeds for transplanting in your vegetable garden.
Parsley, early March
Brussels Sprouts, mid-March
Cucumber, early May
Kale, early March
Lettuce, early March
Peppers, early May
Pumpkin, early May
Plant outdoors from seed