Monthly Archives: March 2018

Winter Gardener’s Calendar

A perfect time to plan! Curl up with your gardening books and the gardening magazines and catalogs you’ve received in the mail. Get out the gardening journal and start dreaming…

General Landscape

  • Clean up when you get a break in the weather. Remove fallen branches and downed evergreen clumps. Rake leaves to prevent stains on concrete and dead patches on lawn. If freezing weather is still in the forecast, leave the mulch in place.
  • If your Christmas tree is still around, set it where the dropping needles will provide mulch, use the branches as additional insulation for perennials, or get together with neighbors to rent a chipper and create wood chips for larger mulch.

Houseplants

  • Perk up tired houseplants by removing dead and dying leaves. Wash under a soft shower in the sink or tub.
  • Spider mites love living in warm dry winter homes. Check for mites by looking for tiny speckles on leaves.
  • Transplant if roots are growing through the drainage holes or over the pot edge. Pick up some new larger trend-setting colored pots to perk up your décor. Or, if you don’t want to move into a larger pot, untangle the roots and cut back by 1/3, scour the pots and replant with new soil.
  • Remember to turn your plants each week as they begin to grow towards the weaker window light.
  • Plant a terrarium or miniature garden. If you can’t play in the dirt outside, bring the fun indoors!
  • Pick up Valentine flowers. We have a fragrant and beautiful assortment of red, pink or white flowers. Come in and choose from cyclamen, miniature roses, orchids, and other colorful flowers that are the perfect “I love you!”

Vegetables:

  • Plant short-term cover crop such as Fava beans when soil becomes workable.
  • February: Start vegetable and herb seeds indoors:
Broccoli
Cabbage
Celery
Chard
Eggplant
Kale
Kohlrabi
Leeks
Lettuce
Onions, bulb
Peppers
Radicchio
Scallion
Spinach
Tomatoes
Turnip

General:

If you just need a breath of aromatic fresh garden air, stop by and smell ours! The humidity is perfect and will instantly transport you to spring. While here, check out the latest trends in gardening colors, containers, new plant varieties and tools. Of course, we also have a wide selection of books to provide ideas. If you have any questions or need suggestions, we’re here to help. We’d love to see you!

Late Spring Gardener’s Calendar

Turn over your vegetable garden and add humus, mushroom compost or manure to enrich the soil.  Apply Bonide Fruit Tree Spray as buds swell and again at petal drop to all fruit trees.

Fertilize perennials with Dr. Earth Rose & Flower Fertilizer.

Continue spring cleanup.  Completely remove winter mulch.  Cultivate to remove winter weeds and debris from the planting beds, then edge.  Prepare your annual beds, and mulch landscape beds with shredded mulch, bark chips or gravel.   Apply Preen or Corn Gluten and scratch it in to prevent future weeds, or try the new Preen Mulch Plus which combines mulch and Preen and prevents weeds for up to 6 months.

Plant and transplant trees and shrubs, including roses, ground covers, and perennials (including hardy lilies and lily-of-the-valley).

Seed or sod new lawns.  Reseed bare spots in established lawns.  Keep the area moist until seedlings appear, then mow when the new grass is 3” high.

Put down a second application of Team or Tupersan (newly seeded lawns) for pre-emergent goosegrass control and control of crabgrass the rest of the year.

Transplant cool-season seedlings into the garden.  When the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees, sow warm- and cool-season vegetable and herb seeds.

Dig and divide crowded spring bulbs after they have finished blooming. Enrich the soil with compost, manure or Espoma Bulb-Tone.

Prune forsythia and other spring-flowering trees and shrubs after the flowers fall.

Place gro-thru sets and link stakes over or around peonies, grasses or any other perennials in need of support.

Check arborvitae, cedar, juniper spruce and pine for bagworms.  Hand-pick bags from the host and spray with Ortho Systemic Insecticide.

Begin summer rose care program of deadheading, spraying and watering.

Fertilize roses with Bayer All In One Rose and Flower Care or Dr Earth Rose and Flower Fertilizer, azaleas with Espoma Holly-Tone or Dr Earth Azalea/Camelia Fertilizer, and fruit trees with Dr Earth Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer.

Deadhead bulbs, but leave foliage to mature and yellow before removing.  This will help nourish the bulb for next year’s flowering. Fertilize with Dr Earth Bulb Fertilizer.

Prune new growth on needled evergreens.

Dig and divide early blooming perennials after flowering.

Apply Encap Fast Acting Iron Plus or Bonide Liquid Iron Plus to azaleas, hollies, junipers, laurel, pines, rhododendron and spruce to provide iron for chlorophyll production by foliage.

Fertilize container plants and window boxes weekly with a Master Nursery Bud and Bloom Plant Food, or use Dynamite All Purpose Plant Food for season-long feeding, to promote healthy, vigorous plants all summer.

Pay close attention to the watering needs of these plants as well as hanging baskets, because they tend to dry out quickly on hot summer days.

Check plants for spider mite damage and treat with Bayer 3 in 1 Insect, Disease and Mite Control then alternate every 7-10 days with Bonide All-Season Oil Spray.

Fall Gardener’s Calendar

SEPTEMBER

Spray Bonide All-Season Spray on hemlocks to control woolly adelgid.

Spruce up the landscape by planting Fall Pansies, Flowering Cabbage & Kale,  Garden Mums,  Fall-Blooming Perennials as well as Trees and Shrubs.

Test your lawn pH to determine if you need to apply lime this season.  A 5o lb. bag of Lime will raise the pH about a half a point per 1000 square feet of turf.

Pick up your Spring Flowering Bulbs like tulips, daffodils, crocus, hyacinths, snowdrops and more!  An Auger for the drill will also help make planting easier.

Plant cool-season salad greens (arugula, corn salad, lettuce, radishes and spinach) in cold frames.

Apply Superphosphate now to coax stubborn plants into bloom next year.

Aerate, re-seed and apply Fall Lawn Food to the lawn.  Keep grass seed damp; water every day if necessary.  You will also want to check for grubs.  Increased activities of skunks, raccoons and moles as well as brown patches that peel back easily are an indication of grub activity.  Apply granular Sevin to control the grubs as well as chinch bugs and sod webworm.

Treat houseplants with Systemic Granules and Concern Insect Killing Soap now to get rid of any insects before bringing them into the house prior to the first frost.

Clean out garden ponds and pools.  Cover with Pond Netting before the leaves start falling.

OCTOBER

Plant bulbs.  Fertilize with Espoma Bulb-Tone and water in well.

Divide daylilies and spring-blooming perennials, including iris and peonies. Don’t be tempted to prune your spring flowering shrubs like forsythia, azaleas, camellia, holly, lilac, rhododendron, spirea or viburnum or you will destroy next year’s buds.

Rake leaves from the lawn and lower the mower blade.  Check your compost pile.  Now is a good time to add Concern Bio Activator to help break down brown leaves and lawn clippings.

Dig up summer-flowering bulbs, such as dahlias, cannas, tuberous begonias, caladiums and gladiolus after the frost kills the top growth.  Treat them with Bulb Dust, pack them in Peat Moss, and store them in a ventilated area for winter.

Fertilize your trees with Jobes Tree Spikes after the leaves fall. Fertilize azaleas, rhododendron, and evergreens with Holly-Tone and other shrubs with Plant-Tone.  Spray hemlock again with Bonide All-Season Spray Oil.

Set up bird feeders.  Clean out birdbaths, refill and purchase heaters for the winter.

Clean up and destroy diseased rose leaves and debris surrounding shrubs and perennials.  Mound 10-12 inches of dirt around roses to protect from winter damage.  After the ground freezes, cover roses with mulch or straw.

Remove annuals, roots and all, and add to your compost pile, but do not add any diseased material to it.

Cut back perennials unless they feature ornamental seed heads and Fertilize with 5-10-5.  Prune long raspberry and rose canes back to a height of three feet.  Clean up your beds and gardens to avoid harboring insects and diseases over the winter.

Pot hardy spring bulbs (anemone, crocus, daffodil, hyacinth, ranunculus and tulip) and place in a cold frame or cool garage (40 degrees) or sink into the ground and mulch.  Keep evenly moist.

Update garden records, noting successes and failures, gaps in planting, future planting and landscape changes.

Water all landscape plants well and mulch before the winter cold sets in.

Spray evergreens, azaleas, rhododendron, boxwood and rose canes with Wilt Pruf for protection against wind and cold weather.

Summer Gardener’s Calendar

Continue planting trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vegetables and herbs. Consider adding some exotic color to your deck or patio with tropical blooming plants. We have a great selection of color this summer.

It’s time for your houseplant’s summer vacation! Take outside to a shady place. Repot if necessary, fertilize and check for pests and diseases. They’ll thrive in their outdoor location all summer. Be sure to bring them back inside in early fall.

Water plants and lawns deeply during periods of dry weather. Annuals, perennials, vegetables, trees and shrubs should be watered with a slow trickling or soaker hose. Pay extra attention to plants in containers and hanging baskets – check them regularly. Remember that clay pots dry out faster than plastic.

Apply a 2-3″ layer of mulch on your garden beds in preparation for summer. Mulch conserves valuable moisture in the soil, helps keep weeds down, maintains even soil temperatures, and gives an attractive finishing touch to your beds and borders.

Spray azaleas, Pieris japonica, laurel and Rhododendron with Bonide All-Season Oil to control lacebug. Spray early in the morning or evening when temperatures are moderate and there is no rain in the forecast.

Warm, humid weather encourages the development of fungal diseases such as Black Spot and Powdery Mildew on roses. Water roses in the early morning and avoid overhead watering if possible. Clean up any fallen leaves and follow a regular fungicide spray program. We recommend the Bayer Rose and Flower All in One for good control of fungus diseases.

Prune evergreens such as pines, cypress, hollies, euonymus and boxwood, to shape as needed. Remove faded flowers of annuals regularly, to encourage more flowers. Annuals will also benefit from regular applications of a water-soluble fertilizer right through summer.

Attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your landscape by planting Butterfly Bush, Bee Balm (Mondarda), Hardy Hibiscus, Lobelia, Scabiosa and Coreopsis.

What a Knock Out!

Think you don’t have the time to take on all the upkeep, maintenance and care beautiful roses require? We have a fabulous solution and it’s a knock out, a Knock Out® rose that is. This shrub rose is the single greatest sensation to hit the plant market in years! Knock Out® roses are valued for their continued and profuse blooming with very little care. Not only are Knock Out® roses gorgeous and easy to care for but they are also drought tolerant, self-cleaning, and disease and pest resistant. Knock Out® roses are like no other rose on the market.

Site Selection

Planting your Knock Out® in the right location will help it flourish its very best.

  • Knock Out® roses grow to about 5’ tall x 5’ wide. Give them enough space to grow to full maturity without overcrowding that can dampen their brilliance.
  • Choose a planting location in full sun and with good air circulation to ensure the brightest blooms and best health.
  • Planting soil should be amended with compost and drain well. Prepping the soil before planting will ensure proper nutrition for your rose.
  • Soil pH should be slightly acidic, 6.0-6.5, but this plant will also thrive in slightly alkaline soils, with a pH as high as 7.5.

Planting

Give your Knock Out® the best advantages as it gets established by planting it properly.

  • Dig a hole twice as wide as the pot but no deeper than the containerized root ball.
  • Remove your Knock Out® rose from the container, massaging the container slightly to loosen the root ball and exerting gentle pressure on the stems, not the foliage.
  • Gently tease the root from the root ball to loosen roots so they will settle in to new soil more comfortably.
  • Place the plant in the hole, making sure that it is planted no deeper that it was in the container.
  • Backfill with amended soil and lightly press down around the plant to remove any large air spaces.
  • Mulch around your Knock Out® to keep weeds down and conserve soil moisture.
  • Water regularly until the plant is established.

Care

Knock Out® roses require much less extensive care than many other rose varieties, but some TLC will help keep your roses healthy and vibrant.

  • Once a year, apply about 2 inches of compost around the base of your Knock Out® rose. This helps replenish the soil’s nutrition for good growth and bright blooms.
  • Mulch yearly with 2-3 inches of mulch to conserve soil moisture and prevent weeds.
  • Fertilize your Knock Out® rose three times a year: early spring, early summer and fall. Fertilize with a slow-release product recommended for roses, and follow application instructions carefully.
  • At the same time that you fertilize, also broadcast one cup of Epsom salts, a source of magnesium, on the soil around the base of the plant.

Pruning

All roses require some minor pruning to help shape the bushes and encourage better blooming. To keep your Knock Out® as a true eye-catcher…

  • Correctively prune Knock Out® roses any time of the year with hand pruners. Make your cuts about 1/4 of an inch above a leaf. Use sharp, clean tools to avoid transmitting pests or diseases from other plants.
  • In early spring, each year, heavy pruning is recommended. Cut back the main stems to 1/3 of their height. Make your cuts 1/4 of an inch above an outward-facing bud for the best growth and shape.

Knock Out® Choices

Which Knock Out® is right for your yard? Any of these varieties is sure to be a hit!

  • Knock Out®: The original. Cherry red, single flowers.
  • Double Knock Out®: Twice as much fun with cherry red, double flowers.
  • Pink Knock Out®: Bright pink, single flowers.
  • Pink Double Knock Out®: Double duty with bright pink, double flowers
  • Rainbow Knock Out®: Single flowers in coral-pink with yellow centers.
  • Blushing Knock Out®: Gentle beauty with pale pink, single flowers.
  • Sunny Knock Out®: A splash of brightness with fragrant yellow, single flowers.

Early Spring Gardener’s Calendar

* Plan your summer vegetable and herb garden. We offer a wide selection of seeds that include all of your favorite annuals, perennials, vegetables and other novelties as well as many hard-to-find selections. Inventory your pots and flats and discard unusable ones. Make a list of the supplies you will need. Have your garden soil tested for nutrient content. We offer a variety of do-it-yourself soil test kits.

* Prune woody plants while dormant, including fruit trees, summer – and fall – blooming shrubs and vines. Limit pruning of spring-blooming trees and shrubs to the removal of sucker growth and rubbing or broken branches. Spray trees and shrubs with year-round horticultural oil to reduce insect population.

* Sharpen, clean and oil tools and lawn mowers. Begin heavy annual pruning of shrub roses as new leaves appear.

* Plant pansies, English daisies and primrose as soon as the earth is workable. Plant strawberry plants. Sow cool-season vegetables and herbs in the garden.

* Start spring cleanup and begin major lawn work. Remove debris, dethatch your lawn or aerate compacted areas to improve water penetration.

* Spray needles and limbs of Arborvitae, Cryptomeria, false cypress, fir, hemlock, Juniper, pine, yew and spruce (except blue spruce) for spider mites with year-round horticultural oil.

* Apply fertilizer to perennials and roses with. Feed berry bushes, grapevines, rhubarb and asparagus a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer before new growth begins. Fertilize trees and shrubs.

*Apply crabgrass preventer with fertilizer to feed the lawn and control crabgrass. Do not use on newly seeded lawns.

* Continue spring cleanup. Cultivate to remove winter weeds and debris from the planting beds. Apply corn gluten or a pre-emergent herbicide with fertilizer specified for gardens and scratch it in to prevent future weeds. Do not use in gardens where you will be direct seeding.

* Reseed bare spots in established lawns. Keep the area moist until seedlings appear, then mow when the new grass is 3? high.

* Prune forsythia and other spring-flowering trees & shrubs after the flowers fall.

* Dig and divide crowded early spring bulbs after they finish blooming. Enrich the soil with bone meal.

* Plant and transplant trees and shrubs, including roses, ground covers, and perennials.

* Transplant cool-season seedlings into the garden. When the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees, sow warm-season vegetable and herb seeds.

* Place gro-thru sets over peonies, grasses or any other perennials in need of support.

Sunflowers

Grow one of the oldest American cultivated plants and join the Incas and Aztecs who grew – and revered – sunflowers more than 4,600 years ago.

Types of Sunflowers

While there wasn’t much variety in the sunflowers for ancient civilizations to grow, there certainly is now. ‘Russian Giant’ quickly grows to 12′ tall with a huge medium brown “face” surrounded by bright yellow petals. On the other hand, ‘Choco Sun’ looks similar but only grows to 15″ tall and with a 5″ face.

Don’t think all sunflowers are vertically growing brown and yellow either. ‘Cherry Rose’ has the familiar brown face, however deep red petals with tips of bright yellow-gold surround it. ‘Pastiche’ glows in reds, oranges and buffs. ‘Black Magic’ is completely dark. And ‘Inca Gold’ trails downward!

Kids love planting and watching their sunflower grow, grow and grow, and there are plenty of fun science projects kids can experiment with sunflower seeds. Later, eating the seeds is a healthy snack.

The folks in Kansas chose the sunflower as their state flower. As an American native plant, its diverse uses make it one of the economic forces in the agricultural world. As a crop, its seeds are in human and bird snacks, the oil is used for cooking and the remaining pulp is a popular livestock feed. Sunflowers also make gorgeous cut flowers in summer and fall.

Growing Sunflowers

Many sunflower varieties are available as seeds. Also, many garden centers often offer a selection of well-rooted seedlings or small plants. Tall or short, yellow or red, upright or trailing, the growing requirements are the same.

Start seeds indoors six weeks before the last frost date or sow seeds directly into the garden after all danger of frost has passed. Cover seed with 1/2″ of soil. Improve growth and bloom by working compost into the outdoor bed or pot. If you are growing giant sunflowers, provide a support such as a trellis or stake. Otherwise, they may fall over as they grow when the large heads get heavy with seeds.

Chose an outdoor location in full sun. As these plants develop, the flower heads will “track” the sun daily. However, contrary to popular myth, after the face develops, it stops and puts energy into seed production. To see the plant’s face, choose a location where you will see the flower facing eastwardly. At least six hours of sunlight produces beautiful flowers and abundant seeds. Provide regular water or plant seeds in a naturally moist location. They bloom from midsummer into autumn.

Birds love sunflower seeds. Therefore, cover the heads with netting if you plan to harvest. When harvesting, cut 12″ of stem with the head, hang it upside down and allow the head to dry. The seeds will loosen and be easy to rub off once dry. Alternatively, you may leave the flower on the plant to provide bird food through the fall and winter, or give the whole cut head to hungry birds. They’ll thank you for it. Just be sure to save a few seeds for next year’s sunflower garden!

Edging and Trimming

Edging and trimming the lawn is like having a manicure after cutting your fingernails. It smooths out any roughness and adds an elegant finishing touch to your landscape, and everything is just more perfect! But which lawn care activity is which, and how do you do them properly to give your lawn that manicured look?

Edging or Trimming – Which is Which?

Before you pull out the lawn tools, it’s important to know which activity you need to do to create the look you want.

  • Edging
    When you are edging, you define the line between a hard surface (sidewalks, driveways and curbing) and a growing area such as a flower bed, garden or lawn. To achieve this, a vertical cut is made between the two using a spade or edging tool. Some have mastered the art of using the string trimmer to do this. This creates a crease-like separation between the organic (growing) and inorganic (non-growing) surfaces. Properly done, edging will help minimize weed growth in these cracks and crevices and gives the landscaping a smooth, formal appearance.
  • Trimming
    Trimming removes the grass, weeds and other plants from areas a lawnmower can’t reach. Long wisps of grass along the side of the house, fence or other structure aren’t very attractive, and trimming them away will give a finished, uniform look to the landscaping. Most people use a string-trimmer or bladed trimmer for this work, but hand shears also do the job. Trimming is also often done around trees or in tight corners where a lawnmower is less effective.

When to Do Edging and Trimming

How often should trimming and edging be done? This depends upon your own personality. Some people feel edging and trimming is a requirement of every mowing. Others do edging and trimming every third or fourth time they mow, or whenever it may look necessary to give the lawn and landscape a uniform look.

Edging and Trimming Tips

No matter how often you choose to do edging and trimming, it is important to do it effectively!

  • Use only the proper tools for these landscaping tasks. This will help prevent injuries or strain on your hands, wrists and elbows, and will get the job done more quickly and efficiently.
  • Check edgers and trimmers regularly to be sure they are sharp, well-oiled and in good functioning condition. Keep extra string for a trimmer on hand so you can quickly replace the spool when it runs out.
  • Always practice good safety measures when edging and trimming. Wear safety goggles if there is risk of flying debris (as there often is), and keep the tools away from children and pets.

For many people, edging and trimming is all part of good lawn maintenance. Once you know the differences between them and how to do them well, you’ll be amazed at the difference these tasks make to the beauty of your lawn.

Pruning Evergreens

When choosing an evergreen for your landscape project, it is always best to select a plant that will not outgrow its designated space, crowding out nearby plants or distorting its own shape without enough room to shine. Proper research can help you choose – you should know the ultimate height, width and growth rate of your selection before committing to what may be one of the more costly additions to your landscape. Always choose naturally slow-growing or dwarf conifers for small spaces, bearing in mind how nearby plants and structures may limit available space over time. Fortunately, just about every genus of evergreen is available in a dwarf variety.

That being said, what if the mistake has already been made? We’ve all made it! It is easy to fall in love with a sweet little plant in the garden center that, within a few years in the ground, looks like it could swallow your house. Fear not, there are ways to rectify the situation with proper pruning.

You will need the right tools to accomplish the job:

  • Loppers
  • Bypass pruners
  • Safety goggles
  • Leather gloves

Pruning should begin in the early spring before the plant’s soft new growth hardens off. Take a close look at your evergreen to determine its branching habit. Pine, spruce and fir trees all have layers of branches that are whorled around the trunk. Arborvitae, juniper, yew and false cypress have limbs that are produced randomly along the trunk.

Conifers with a random branching habit are able to grow new limbs from old, foliage-bearing wood. You may prune this type of evergreen back to this older wood to encourage a more compactly branched habit and keep size down, or to create the desired shape. Whorled branching evergreens are pruned differently, however. They have new growth called “candles” at the tip of their branches, and they really do look like candles with lighter coloration. To promote a more densely branched, compact habit, pinch the candles back by up to half their length before the needles harden off. Never cut into the older wood below the candle, as this type of evergreen does not have dormant buds on the stem that will become new growth. Pruning into old wood will leave a hole in your plant and distort its overall appearance.

As always, we are eager to assist you with selecting the proper plant for any landscape project you undertake and to advise you on proper pruning to keep it healthy and beautiful for many years.

prune2Pine with Cones natural backgroundprune1

How To Succeed At Seed-Starting

It’s easy to buy seedlings, but there are many reasons why you may wish to start your own plants. By starting your own seeds, you have a much greater selection of flowers, vegetables and herbs to choose from. For example, old favorites like hollyhocks and less common varieties of herbs and perennials as well as heirloom vegetables might not be available as plants, or stocks may be limited. Plants with fine seeds should also be started indoors because they can easily wash away in the rain and they may have a difficult time competing with weeds. Starting your own seeds can also help you extend the growing season so you can enjoy a longer, more productive harvest. So why not get started today?

Containers for Starting Seeds

Traditionally, seeds are started in flats or peat pots. There are various sizes of plastic trays, cedar flats, peat pots and the popular Jiffy-7, a flat, peat-moss wafer, available. When moistened, the Jiffy-7 expands to form a small, self-contained pot of soil into which a seed is sown directly. This is an excellent choice when sowing seed of plants that do not like their roots disturbed during transplanting. You might also use eggshells or folded newspaper pots to start your seeds.

Seed-Friendly Soil

It is best to use a light, soilless mix when starting seeds. These mixes are sterile, meaning young seeds do not have any weed seeds to compete with, and there are no harmful bacteria, insects or other pests in the soil right away. Good seed mixes also contain adequate nutrients to carry seedlings through until transplanting. Do not use garden soil, as seeds will not germinate well in the heavy soil, and a fungus disease called damping off is common.

Temperatures for Seeds

Most seeds require warm soil in order to germinate. You will need to heat the soil of the seedling flats with a heat mat, heat tray or heating cable. Seed trays can also be placed on top the refrigerator or hot water heater. Do not put seed-starting trays on a windowsill; nighttime temperatures are too cool to allow for good germination. Seeds need consistent warm temperatures of 75 degrees or warmer for optimum germination.

Seed Watering Needs

Seeds need to be kept constantly moist in order to germinate. Moisten the soil thoroughly before planting. Water when the surface is dry with a misting nozzle or plastic spray bottle until the soil is saturated. The medium should be constantly moist, but not soggy. It is important not to overwater, which could drown the seeds and tender seedlings, but also not to permit the flat to dry out.

Sowing Seeds

Seeds should be sown 2-10 weeks before the last spring frost date. Your seed packet will provide this information as sowing dates can vary for different plant varieties or even cultivars of the same plants. Fill your containers almost to the top with moist growing mix. Tamp it down gently and smooth it out. Gently press the seeds into the mix or simply set them on the surface of the soil and place milled sphagnum moss over the top to prevent damping off. Cover the container loosely with plastic wrap or a clear dome, which will help preserve moisture and warmth. Be sure to label your containers with plastic or wood plant stakes and write the plant name and the date sowed. Set trays in a warm spot and check daily to keep evenly moist.

Seedling Care

Once seedlings have grown a half-inch or so, you should water less frequently. Let the soil dry slightly between watering, which will help the seedlings stretch and develop a strong root system. Seedlings will also need light and the best method is to use the traditional fluorescent fixtures or the new energy-saving LEDs. Suspend lights just an inch or two away from the plants. Lights must be on at least 14-16 hours a day. As your seedlings grow, raise the lights accordingly so they do not bump into the lighting fixture. If your seedlings do not get enough light, they will become weak and spindly. Fertilize seedlings weekly with half-strength, balanced, organic fertilizer. A fish and seaweed blend works well. Thin seedlings if they become overcrowded, choosing the healthiest, strongest seedlings to save.

Hardening Off and Planting Out

When the weather is warm, move your seed trays outside gradually over a 5-7 day period. Start by putting them out just for a few hours during the late morning to mid-afternoon, and then gradually increase until they are left out all day and night. Keep them in a lightly shaded, protected spot during the day to prevent sunburn. After a week or two of this transition, gently transplant seedlings into the garden. Try not to handle the root ball too much, as they are quite fragile. Water thoroughly after transplanting and again every day for about a week. Newly set out plants will look sparse at first, but they will grow and fill in quickly, leading to bumper crops and a lush, delicious harvest!

Gardener With Seedling Tray

Seedling Box Tray in Greenhouse

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