Flower Seeds

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Starting a flower garden from seed is especially rewarding whether you're an occasional or a seasoned gardener. But virtually everywhere in the United States, except for the narrow tropical zone, this means germinating seeds indoors. Moving seedlings outside, into their particular spot in the garden, doesn't come until perhaps eight weeks afterwards, when the seedlings are strong enough and the weather is consistently warm. Timing is at least half of the picture.

Germinating and Growing Flower Seeds

You want to get started about two months before the last forecast local frost, or about the time that usually comes. Supplies are minimal. The best planting containers are plastic. Any small tubs left over from the kitchen--yogurt or cottage cheese, perhaps, small juice or water bottles--with tiny holes for drainage will do very nicely. It's better to use a seed starting mix from a local nursery or hardware store rather than ordinary garden soil. Ordinary soil packs down too easily and usually contains weed and other seeds, not to mention fungus and other ingredients that can hinder germination. Starting mixes are sterile, light, and porous.

Once the seeds sprout and reach the soil surface, adequate light and heat are critical. At first lights should, ideally, be just a few inches away from the seedlings. Light and warmth are the idea. You want to rotate the containers also, to ensure even growth. Keep the soil adequately moist. An easy rule is to water, a gentle trickle, when the soil in the top half inch is dry. When the seedlings are several inches tall they should be moved to deeper containers so that root growth tendencies are not constrained and the plant has room to grow above the soil.

Acclimating the seedlings to outdoor temperatures is a good idea before transplanting. Perhaps a month after planting, when the seedlings are several inches tall, they should be taken outdoors for brief periods. Slight shade is best. Start with half days, then full, and then--provided the temperatures are 50° F at night--for a couple days. By then, the seedlings should be ready for proper planting.

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