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Vermont Garden Journal: Starting Seeds For Spring

When starting seeds indoors, open trays are good for large quantities while cell trays are best for smaller amounts.
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When starting seeds indoors, open trays are good for large quantities while cell trays are best for smaller amounts.

We're getting closer to indoor seed-starting time. Actually, some vegetables seeds, like leeks, could have been started already. But if you're new to indoor seed-starting or need a refresher, let's walk through the basic steps to growing transplants in your home.

First, think about what you want to start indoors and what you're happy to buy as transplants from a local nursery. If you're growing lots of marigolds, zinnias, basil or tomatoes, then it makes sense to start them yourself; however, if you're only growing a few plants, it's probably easier to buy them as transplants. 

Once you have your seeds, check how long they need to be grown indoors before transplanting. Most seeds need four-to-eight weeks of indoor growing, but check the seed packet to be sure. It's better to start a little late than early so your plants don't get overgrown and leggy.

Decide on the pots. Open trays are good for large quantities of seedlings while cell trays are good for smaller numbers and require less thinning. Purchase seed-starting soil that's lightweight and easy for seeds to grow in the first few weeks. While you can grow seedlings in a sunny window, it's best to grow them under grow lights on a timer to run 14 hours per day in a cool room. I like using heating pads under the trays to accelerate germination.

Now for this week's tip: check houseplants, as they start regrowing with the longer days, for mealybugs and scale. Foliage houseplants, such as ficus, dracena and scheffelera, are favorites of these insects. Use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to dab the individual insects and kill them.

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