• Lori Adams plants some seeds in her Daily Sitka Sentinel garden column

(Lori Adams, who owns Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden and is a frequent vendor at the Sitka Farmers Market, will be writing a regular garden column in the Daily Sitka Sentinel this summer. The Sentinel is allowing us to reprint the columns on this site after they first appear in the newspaper. This column appeared on Page 3 of the Wednesday, March 21, 2012, edition of the Daily Sitka Sentinel.)

GARDENING IN SITKA

By Lori Adams

PLANTING SEEDS

Most vegetable seeds can be planted directly outdoors after May 10, but if you have a sunny window you can get a tremendous head start by planting seeds indoors and then transplanting them outside later.

In February, I start celery, tomatoes and leeks. In March, I start broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, fennel, herbs, lettuce, spinach, chard, brussel’s sprouts. In April, I start squash and cucumbers. The only things I don’t start indoors are carrots, radishes, peas, beans, beets, turnips, potatoes which I plant in April and garlic which I plant in October. Anyone can have some luck starting seeds, but you can really improve your success rate by paying attention to details.

The killers for indoor seedlings are poor germination and “damping off”(a disease caused by fungi that results in wilting and death). To prevent these things from happening to you, buy high quality seeds packaged for 2012 and sterile potting soil. I have tried to use soil from my garden to save money and it has NEVER worked. You do not want to scrimp on these two things.

Fill the containers of your choice with dampened potting soil and then set them in a shallow tray that will hold water. Be sure the pots are all the same height and the soil is level with the tops of the containers. The soil should just be damp, not waterlogged. Place the trays in any warm spot (60-80 degrees F), cover them with plastic to reduce evaporation and check on them every day.

Once you see some seedlings emerging you can uncover the trays and place the trays in the sun. Reduce the temperature to 40-60 degrees F to prevent them from getting tall and scraggly. From this point on you should only water from the bottom by pouring water in the tray using a watering can rather than a hose with a spray nozzle.

Place an oscillating fan so that it blows gently over the level surface of the soil causing the seedlings to wiggle in the breeze.  Good airflow reduces disease problems and wiggling makes the stems stronger. If you don’t have a fan, brush your hand across the tops of the seedlings twice a day.

When the seedlings start to lean toward the sun you can flip the trays around once in awhile to encourage them to grow as straight as possible. You can plan on transplanting these seedlings outside mid April-mid May. Once outside they will need to be protected with a floating row cover to survive any late freezes.

If you think it might be June before your new beds are ready, just put everything off a month.  Better late than not at all.  Just be sure that your seedlings don’t get too old, they are best when young and fresh!

Next week’s column will focus on how to find good gardening advice.

Brought to you by Down to Earth U-pick Garden

Located at 2103 Sawmill Creed Road

Open June-August / Mon-Sat 11:00-6:00

747-6108 or 738-2241

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