Christmas may be the season for giving, but it’s also the time to buy seeds to grow summer plants indoors. It might sound crazy, but it’s true. When purchasing seeds for transplants in early summer, availability will be at its highest right after Christmas.
January is the first month for most seed catalogs to arrive in the mail.
Knowing which seed to buy for summer transplants can seem overwhelming. The most common transplants grown indoors include peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants. When finding the best seed, there are three rules of thumb for buying seeds.
Look for disease resistant cultivars. Choosing disease resistant varieties is only one way to avoid problems before the growing season begins. Diseases can be a costly and time consuming issue to deal with during the season, so choosing a disease resistant variety can help avoid these issues before they start.
Consider the size of the garden when choosing seeds. Since there are many ways to plant a garden (containers, raised beds, and large-scale gardens), it is important to consider the end goal when purchasing seeds. There are hearty garden plants, as well as patio type cultivars, to suit any size or shape of a backyard garden. If you decide to grow in containers on a patio or porch for the season, selecting patio type cultivars is the best choice.
Buy more seeds than necessary. Even if your gardening plans only include a few tomato plants, purchasing additional seeds can be beneficial.
Over the past two years, it has been difficult to find certain vegetable selections and supplies have been limited. The purchase of additional seeds is a good insurance policy for future gardens.
Once the seeds are planted, they will require special care until they are transplanted into the garden.
In order to ensure healthy and strong transplants, the seeds will need 16 to 18 hours of bright light. It can be natural or artificial. Less light results in a weak transplant.
To produce enough light, gardeners can use 40-watt, 48-inch fluorescent bulbs. Place these bulbs two to four inches above the seedlings on a timer.
Lights should be initially just above the ground line and then raised to maintain a 2-4 inch gap between the light and the plants.
Watering and Fertilization
When determining when to water, wait until the graft begins to wilt slightly. Then water the plant until it comes out of the bottom of the container. It is important to plant in a container with drainage holes for good watering. Fertilizing all other watering will help ensure a healthy transplant. Begin this pattern alternating with a water soluble fertilizer once the first true leaves appear.
As summer approaches and the plants are almost ready to move into the garden, they will need to harden. This means that the graft will need to be gradually exposed to the natural elements: sunlight, temperatures and wind.
Hardening refers to the thickening of the cuticle on the leaves, to prevent water loss when exposed to the elements. The process helps prevent transplant shock, a term used to describe languid or stunted seedlings after sudden changes in temperature and light exposure. It is best to begin this process seven to 14 days before planting in the garden. The hardening period varies depending on the plant and seedling.
For more information on purchasing seeds for transplants, visit the Alabama Extension website, www.aces.edu, or contact your local regional agent for land, gardens and household pests.
– Lori Wheeler is the DeKalb County Extension Coordinator. His email is [email protected]