February kicks off gardening season

Lettuce and chard seedlings under the lights.
Reeser Manley
Lettuce and chard seedlings under the lights.
By Reeser Manley,
Posted Jan. 28, 2011, at 5:48 p.m.

For gardeners interested in growing transplants of heirloom vegetables — those flavor-rich varieties found only in specialty seed catalogs — and those who believe that homegrown transplants of any ilk are far superior to nursery-grown, the gardening season starts soon, as early as late February.

There may be 3 feet of snow outside, but on a table in the corner of the dining room will soon be plastic trays lined up under fluorescent lights, only 2 inches of space between the bulbs and pots of damp soil. The lights hang from chains on frames made of PVC pipe, and they can be raised as the seedlings grow, keeping the light as close as possible to developing leaves.

So begin two months of indoor gardening, of watering, fertilizing, transplanting, adjusting lights, moving trays of plants to and from the outdoors, until finally the sturdy little transplants are set out in the garden beds. When asked why you are going to all of this effort when the garden centers will soon be filled with ready-to-plant transplants, you give the only honest answer. Either start gardening indoors in February or go insane.

Experience sets the schedule if you have been growing your own transplants for years. Newcomers should rely on the seed catalogs for planning information. Johnny’s Selected Seeds has made this planning process easy with an online calculator (www.johnnyseeds.com). Click on “seed-starting calculator” and enter the date of last frost for your area. For the Ellsworth area, I enter May 15. The calculator will give you sowing dates for most crops.

Despite the incipient insanity, don’t start too early! The resulting pot-bound, leggy transplants will remain stunted after planting in the garden and produce poorly.

Here are some keys to success in growing your own:

So, fellow gardeners, just a few more weeks. Get those seeds ordered and let the growing season begin!

Send queries to Gardening Questions, P.O. Box 418, Ellsworth 04605, or to rmanley@shead.org. Include name, address and telephone number.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/01/28/living/february-kicks-off-gardening-season/ printed on July 24, 2014