It is time to start your vegetable garden planning. Starting seeds indoors can be a rewarding experience and you will have nice plants to put out as early as possible in order to have fresh garden vegetables sooner. The seed catalogs are arriving daily or you can put in requests for them. It is fun to curl up in a comfortable chair when it is cold outside to plan your garden and fantasize about what you are going to grow this year.
Last year was my first really successful year starting seeds indoors. I used to always buy seedlings. When you start your own seeds there are many more options of what you can grow. It also gives you the opportunity to grow heirloom vegetables. The selection at the nurseries can never include all the possiblities available.
In the past I never thought to use seed starting mix. I thought my plants would do fine in regular potting soil and then I would transplant them. It is much better to use seed starting mix or jiffy pots and plant them in a way so that they roots are not disturbed when you transplant. I used to plant them all in one container and then dig the plants out and invariably I damaged the root system. The advantage to a special seed starting mix is that it helps prevent damping off.
A great invention is the jiffy pot which you moisten and then push in the seeds. Seed starting mix is a little messy and takes a while to moisten. I bought my jiffy pots at Wal-Mart last year and they worked out great. That way you can plant them right into the ground without losing any root structure. If you are planting early and it is too cold to put the seedling into the ground you can plant right into a pot to keep in your house.
Here is arugula that I have grown for the winter showing a good example of how damaging the roots effects the plant. When I thinned the plants I replanted the 2 plants in the clay pot. They are in the same soil and were planted at the same time. See the difference in their development. The difference is striking. It is always important when transplanting to dig around the seedling to get as much dirt as possible to maintain the root structure.
Next time I will post about lighting for the seedlings. Stay tuned!