Starting the Plants
Earliness, economy of garden space, and lengthening of the
growing season may be obtained by setting the plants of many
vegetables instead of sowing the seed directly in the garden.
Moreover, it is almost impossible to establish good stands from
seed sown directly in place in the garden with delicate plants,
such as celery, under average conditions.
In the warmer parts of the United States, practically all
vegetable plants may be started in specially prepared beds in the
open with little or no covering. In the temperate and colder
regions, if an early garden is desired, it is essential that
certain crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, early cabbage,
cauliflower, and early head lettuce, be started indoors, in
hotbeds, or in cold frames. Occasionally onion, beet, cucumber,
squash, and melons are started under cover and transplanted.
Starting Plants in the House
can be germinated and seedlings started in a box, pan, or
flowerpot of soil in a window. In addition to having at least 6
hours of direct sunlight each day, the room must be kept
reasonably warm at all times.
Washed fine sand and shredded sphagnum moss are excellent media
in which to start seeds. Place a layer of easily drained soil in
the bottom of a flat and cover this soil with a layer �about
three-fourths inch thick�of either fine sand or sphagnum moss.
Press the sand or moss to form a smooth, firm seedbed.
Then, using a jig (fig. 4), make furrows in the seedbed
one-half inch deep. Water the sand or moss thoroughly and allow it
seeds thinly in the rows and cover the seeds lightly with a second
layer of sand or moss. Sprinkle the flat, preferably with a fine
mist, and cover the flat with a sheet of clear plastic film (fig.
5). The plastic film diffuses and subdues the light and holds
moisture in the soil and air surrounding the seeds. Plastic films
offer advantages over glass coverings in that they are light in
weight and are non-shattering.
the seeded and covered flat in a location that is reasonably warm
at all times and has 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. The flat
will require no further attention until after the seedlings have
developed their first true leaves (fig. 6). They are then ready to
transplant to other containers.
It is seldom possible to keep the transplanted plants in house
windows without their becoming spindling and weak. For healthy
growth, place them in a hotbed, cold frame, or other place
where they will receive an abundance of sunshine, ample
ventilation, and a suitable temperature.
Strong, vigorous seedlings can be started under 40-watt
fluorescent tubes (fig. 7). These tubes should be 6 to 8 inches
above the seedlings.
Temperatures should be about 60� F at night and 70� during
the day. Best results are obtained if the fluorescent fixture is
next to a window to increase the amount of light reaching the
Soil pellets are the simplest and easiest method for starting
plants and are readily available from garden supply stores and
other sources. Soil pellets are a well-balanced synthetic soil
mixture and are free of soil borne diseases and weeds (fig. 8).
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