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Volume 14, Issue 13 ~ March 30 - April 5, 2006

The Bay Gardener

By Dr. Frank Gouin

Seeds are Ready to Grow

Now is the time to sow seeds of cool-loving plants

Part of the enjoyment of gardening is starting transplants for planting out in the vegetable garden and in the flower garden. Now is the time to sow seeds of petunias, impatiens, coleus, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, spinach, lettuce and peppers. It is much too early to sow seeds of warmth lovers like tomatoes, zinnias and marigolds.

With an abundant supply of Pro-Mix or Metro-Mix (available at garden centers), it is easier than ever to start and grow your own transplants. For starting seeds, I prefer these mixes blended with equal parts by volume of very fine vermiculite or perlite, but avoid breathing the dust of these products.

A three-inch plastic pot makes an ideal seed-sowing container. To avoid disturbing the seeds after they have been sown, moisten the potting mix well before filling the pot. Fill the pot to within one-half inch of the top edge and scatter the seeds uniformly over the top. Generally one packet of seeds fills one pot. Cover the seeds with a light sprinkling of play sand and irrigate with a light spray. Place the pots in a large plastic bag and place the bag on a shelf or table near a window but not on the window ledge. Avoid using windows facing south and west.

Within a few hours, you should see moisture condensing on the inside of the bag. Allow the bag to remain closed until your seedlings emerge. Check the pots daily to make certain that they are damp, and remove each pot as the majority of seeds has germinated. Since not all species of plants have the same germinating period, germination may require from five days to three weeks. Place the pots that have germinated on a tray and near a window facing south or west, and check daily to make certain they do not dry out.

Placing them under a table lamp to extend the day length a few hours each night will hasten growth and produce stronger plants. Fertilizing them with a one-half concentration of liquid fertilizer by the second week after they have been removed from the propegation bag will ensure greater vigor.

When the seedlings are one-quarter inch to one-half inch tall, lift them carefully from the mix and transplant them into individual pots. I find the point of my pen knife the ideal tool for lifting each plant for transplanting. Now you will need more growing space, for which I will discuss building a simple cold frame next week.

Store-Bought Compost Bins

Q I’m hoping to start a compost this year and have been researching pre-fabricated bins. I need something tidy that can help out in a smaller space next to a fence because it’s going in at my fiance’s townhouse with a small backyard. We’ll probably have some leaves, kitchen scraps, plant/garden material, etc. Can you recommend a compost bin?

Carrie Steele, Annapolis

A The Kemp Composter makes the best tumbler-type composting bin. When I was working on composting garbage, I studied several models and selected the Kemp units because of the excellent aeration they provide and their ease of use. During this research, I had 12 units going. They generated sufficient heat to warm a greenhouse during winter. It is important to maintain adequate moisture at all times, but don’t turn the drums more than twice a week.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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