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Seed Starting

February is a great time to start seeds indoors. Vegetable garden favorites, such as tomatoes and peppers, do best when they are transplanted into the garden instead of directly seeded. Save money by raising your own transplants from seed. You will also have a much larger selection of varieties available in this format.

Select what you want to grow this year, whether its annual flowers or peppers, and research how long it takes for the seed to germinate and produce a seedling. Seed packets will have instructions on how soon they should be planted (peppers, for example, are often started as early as 8 weeks before the last frost date). Make sure to select good quality seeds from a reputable company. Once you have made your selections and you have your packets, you will need containers or a seed starting tray and a fine potting soil mix suitable for seed starting. Fill the cells with soil and gently pack the soil in each one, to avoid air holes. Alternatively, I like to use the dehydrated peat pellets that puff up when dropped in water. These create a self- contained soil ball for your seedling. Place the seeds on the top of the soil and gently cover them with a very light layer of soil. Make sure to follow the specific instructions on the packet for planting depth, germination temperature, and light. Water the seedlings with a spray bottle to gently saturate the soil. Place a clear plastic lid or covering on top to create a high humidity micro-climate for the seeds to germinate in. Place seed tray in bright indirect light. As seedlings emerge, the lid can be opened slightly or removed as plants get larger. Start hardening off plants at least a week before you intend to plant them outdoors by placing them outside during the day and pulling them in at night. Once the fear of frost has passed, the plants may be transplanted into the garden on a cloudy, windless day.