Local lifestyle columnists

For the eager gardeners ready to dig, start with indoor seedlings

By From page C4 | February 17, 2013

Anyone who gardens or just putters around the yard starts to get eager right about now.

The home centers are starting to stock up on veggie plants and fragrant flowers. The seed packets are lining the aisles along with soils and pots. The garden catalogs are coming in the mail and the circulars that were just covered with Valentines are starting to show signs of spring with bunnies, birdies and flowers. It’s almost too much to bear to not go outside and stick something, anything in the ground and look for it to grow.

Well, maybe we can stave off that craving for just a bit with a little indoor prep work. Start some seeds indoors. They can be flower seeds, veggies seeds or some herbs.

Some things you might need to start are as follows:

  • Some small pots. These come in packs at the stores, or if you have some paper cups that might work too.
  • Some soil. I usually get nice garden soil for starting indoors. Be sure to read the bag and make sure it isn’t compost. Many of the bags look-alike
  • Some labels. I use coffee stir sticks, or toothpicks with little sticky note flags and a sharpie.
  • Something to put the pots in or underneath so they don’t leak onto the furnishings. I often use those clear plastic shoeboxes, which when turned upside down, actually make for great little greenhouses.
  • A place that receives sun for placement. This can be a sunny windowsill or a table that gets a lot of light or a place on the floor near a sliding door.

Some of the best things to start indoors right now, by seed are lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Fill your pots about two-thirds full with soil, place the seeds according to the directions on the back of the seed packet, and cover with the suggested amount of soil.

Now, hopefully you have them in a tray of sorts or in one of those plastic boxes I mentioned, and go ahead and give them some water. If you use the plastic box upside down, so that the lid makes a tray, you can cover the plants with the box part and pretty much forget about opening it until you see some green! You should open the box when you do see the green otherwise you will end up with mold (no matter how sterile your soil). Keep them in the well-lit area, moist but not over-watered, and when your plants are about 2 to 3 inches tall they’ll be ready for their new home in the garden or container.

If you’re just too anxious and want some food in the ground, now is a good time for onions, potatoes, carrots, beets and some leafy greens.

Just be sure that you watch the weather. If it’s going to freeze, be sure to cover them with something to protect those tender leaves. If they are still small, heavy zipper style plastic bags work well, or plastic water/soda bottles that have been cut in half, can be set over the young ones. Even something as simple as a cardboard box will insulate if it’s just for a night.

Be sure to weight it down with a brick or rock in case the wind kicks up. Remember to remove your coverings the next day to let them receive needed air and light.


Patricia Brantley is a Master Gardener with the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Fairfield. If you have gardening questions, call the Master Gardener’s office at 784-1322.

Patricia Brantley


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