Dirty Fingernails: Seeds need heat and seedlings like sun – Ravalli Republic


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Dirty Fingernails: Seeds need heat and seedlings like sun

Growing from seed is a two-step process. First, the seeds must sprout. Second, the seedlings must grow. The two steps require different conditions.


for the Ravalli Republic
Q: I am trying to grow eggplants from seed. I planted the seeds more than a week ago, but none has sprouted yet. I have them on a bright windowsill, which is the best light I can give them, since I do not have grow lights. Am I doomed to failure?A: No, you need not fail, but you should change the place where you are trying to sprout your eggplant seeds. Growing from seed is a two-step process. First, the seeds must sprout. Second, the seedlings must grow. The two steps require different conditions. Except for a very few flowers, seeds do not require light to sprout. They must be in damp soil, and their temperature must stay in a range for their sprouting.For cool weather crops like lettuce, seed sprouting temperatures are in the 60-degree range. That range can be found many places in a house. For warm weather crops like eggplant, sprouting temperatures are 75 to 80 degrees. There will be places in most homes which are that warm, but a windowsill usually is quite cool. Look for a warm spot close to the ceiling, since hot air rises. A high shelf is a likely place for warmth. Sometimes a bathroom. Years ago, we could assume that the top of the refrigerator was warm, but not any longer. Refrigerators are too well insulated to be leaking heat upward.Find a consistently warm spot to set your eggplant seeds. It can be completely dark. Be sure to look at the seeds every day, so that you notice the first leaves appearing. As soon as the seeds sprout, move them to the spot where they will grow. This is when the seedlings require all the light you can give them. They no longer want to be as warm; even for heat lovers like eggplant, a room in the 60s will be adequate. Your sunny windowsill should be fine for growing the sprouted seeds. You will want to turn the tray at least once a day to keep the stems from growing sideways toward the light.I learned the same lesson the hard way. I was trying to sprout a variety of chives particularly good for indoor growing. Like you, I chose a sunny window in late winter. The seeds never sprouted. Only years later did I learn about the warmth necessary for seeds to sprout.Q: I let the soil in a pot of onion seeds dry out. As long as I wet it again, will the seeds come up and just be a little late?A: I am sorry to tell you that the answer is no. You will have to start over again with fresh seed. When dormant seeds become damp, as they do when they absorb moisture from soil, their growth begins. It cannot pause again. If the seed dries out, it dies, even if no growth is yet visible outside the seed itself. A seed has only one chance to grow.One way to keep seeds damp without having them too wet (which also will kill them) is to enclose containers of planted seeds in a clear plastic bag. The bag serves as a mini greenhouse with high humidity. Sprouted seeds still need careful watering, but not twice a day.Q: We want to have a line of trees along our property instead of a fence. What kind should we plant? We will be digging small trees off our property and moving them.A: Most kinds of trees will survive a move, as long as they will be living in the same type of soil and are exposed to the same amount of light. Do you want evergreens, which will provide a screen year around? Or are you more interested in the summer foliage of deciduous trees?Do you want trees that grow quickly? Most of them have short lifespans and will have to be replaced eventually. Slow-growing trees will live many years, but they also will be slow to provide a privacy screen. Whatever trees you dig, choose the smallest healthy ones you can find. Because they will suffer less root injury, they soon will overtop a bigger tree. Your trees will look interesting if the lineup is a mixture of three different kinds. Only one variety of tree will look boring. Too many kinds will leave your eyes darting back and forth, searching for a place to rest.Since you will be digging wild trees, remember that they will be directionally oriented. Trees know the compass points. As you dig trees for your living fence, mark the north side of each one. Plant it so that north remains north in its new location. Both the survival rate and the growth rate will be maximized if the trees are not stressed by being turned.Q: I do not have space for a vegetable garden; my plants all grow in pots on my deck. How can I tell which kinds of seeds or plants to buy?A: Your timing is perfect, since suppliers are offering many more container varieties than previously. You are among a multitude of gardeners who grow only in pots. Look for descriptions calling plants “small” or “compact.” Crops like squash and cucumbers, which normally grow on long vines, are offered in bush varieties. If your cucumber starts vining, put a stake in the pot. Train the cucumber up the stake, tying it loosely every few inches.Especially look for the phrase “suitable for containers.” These plants may be smaller in size, but their production will not be stunted by containerized roots.Q: I grow vegetables in pots. Can I grow a few potatoes to have delicious new potatoes, or is that impossible?A: Since I have grown potatoes in pots as an experiment, I guarantee that you can be successful. I recommend a pot at least as big as a five-gallon bucket for a worthwhile quantity of potatoes. Be sure that your pot has drainage holes.You can buy one seed potato from a garden supply store. Plant just one piece, about the size of a golf ball, in each pot. More pieces will produce very small potatoes.If you cannot find a seed potato, you should have success with a small potato from an organic grocery. Conventionally grown potatoes from standard groceries will not grow. They have been sprayed with a chemical to prevent sprouting.STRAWBERRY PLANTSIf you plan to set out new strawberry plants this spring, it is time to arrange for them, because the plants will be in short supply again this year. I recommend contacting a local nursery and ordering plants now. By the end of the month, when dormant strawberries will arrive at nurseries, the best varieties may be spoken for.With temperatures starting to rise this week, Molly Hackett of Dirty Fingernails' fame offers some tips on starting seedlings, growing vegetables in pots and a recommendation on getting new strawberry plants in her weekly column.

Growing from seed is a two-step process. First, the seeds must sprout. Second, the seedlings must grow. The two steps require different conditions.

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