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THE GARDEN ORACLE RELAXES AMIDST SPRINGTIME BLOSSOMS AND GREENS IN HIS ORGANIC VEGETABLE, HERB, FRUIT AND CUTTING FLOWER GARDEN

Time to Sow and Grow.

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Late winter through mid-spring is the ideal time for most of you to start your own seeds indoors for vegetables and flowers; the more-hardy of which also may be started outdoors in mild climates or in cold-frames, hoop-houses or under a cloche.  Hot climate folks may want to adjust this to get things in earlier, and cold climates for later.  Don't forget to read the seed packets and follow the suggested seed-sowing depths, spacing and rates along with any special care instructions and soil temperature considerations for proper germination (seedling heat-mats, propagators, germination stations, greenhouses and warm spots like sunny windowsills or tops of water-heaters are very helpful).  Clamp-on shop lights with Daylight Spectrum CFL or LED bulbs are great for adding extra light above seedlings without breaking the bank, or you can go the pro route with grow lamps & racks.  In general it's best to use a good quality fine grade potting soil, compost or seedling mix and new or sterilized pots, cell-packs, flats, domes, heat-mats and watering trays (you can sterilize your used pots and equipment before use by spraying everything down with a solution of 1/4 cup bleach per 1 gallon of water).

For sowing, you can pre-fill all the cells or pots in each seed tray most of the way, then scatter in or place a few seeds in each cell/pot and follow with a thin sprinkle or layer of soil to the appropiate depth and tamp down lightly.  For larger seeds or very specific placement you can fill the pots all the way, poke holes to the correct depth with the back of a pencil or garden marker, drop your seeds in the holes followed by a pinch of soil over each hole and then tamp.  After your seeds are sown, gently water with a fine shower from above or better yet bottom-water by setting your flats or pots in a watering tray with water up to 2" deep and leave them there until evenly moist, repeat every few days or as needed to keep soil from drying out (unless you're using self watering seed-trays, in which case keep the reservior full).  Also, make sure to label your starts with tags that include the variety and date sown -- plastic, wooden and metal plant labels and waterproof garden markers are available through most seed houses and the garden suppliers on this site.



Corn, Tomatoes, Eggplant & Other Seedlings Thrive Inside The Garden Oracle's Greenhouse in Early Spring.  Note the Grow Lights, Watering Tray, Heat Mats & Plant Identification Tags - These are All Very Useful in in Giving Your Plants a Head Start and Making Your Task of Seed Starting Easier, More Successful and More Organized.  Seedstarting Supplies, Potting Soil, Greenhouses, Seeds and More are Available Through The Gardening Suppliers Listed Here on The Garden Oracle and Through the Tabs at the Top of the Site.
Inside The Garden Oracle's Greenhouse in Early Spring

Things to start first are hardy or half-hardy greens and veggies that can take the cold wet weather of early spring such as kale, collards, broccoli, broccolini, sprouting broccoli, raab, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi, bok/pak choi, Chinese cabbage, mustards, mizuna, Chinese broccoli, other Asian greens, onions, leeks, scallions, endive, chicory, escarole, radicchio, catalogne, dandelion, frisee, cress, peas (snow, snap, and shelling -- both bush and climbing types), favas, spinach, New-Zealand spinach, chard, spinach-beet, beet-leaf and root beets, mache (corn-salad), purselane, orach, arugula, lettuces, mesclun mixes and most other leafy greens and salad greens.  These will be the first to be planted out when conditions are tolerable and in milder areas you may be able to simply direct sow many of them with or without a cloche or other protection (although most cole crops like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages are best done as starts and transplanted deeper).  I like to use flats of cell-packs for most of these as you can do several starts of each kind per cell-pack and that gives you several kinds of crops per flat so it saves space if you only need a little of each type.  You can also bulk-sow things like lettuce, salad greens and spinach in larger containers like window boxes for early cuttings.  Beets, chard, onions, leeks and scallions can be bulk-sown in 6" pots and divided up at planting time.  Peas can also be bulk-sown in a few 3" pots and hand-divided into several small clumps planted under a trellis as well as direct-sown after last hard freeze.

This is also a good time to start hardy herbs such as shallots, chives, mint, lemon-balm, oregano, thyme, sage, lavender, winter savory, sorrel, curly & flat leaf parsley, par-cel, cilantro (coriander), cutting celery, celeriac and celery (rosemary and tarragon are usually only sold as plants).  I like to bulk-sow most of these in 3" or 6" pots and divide them up later (fill containers most of the way, scatter seeds about 1/4 inch apart and then cover and tamp).  Also, if you didn't plant your garlic bulbs outdoors in the fall, do so as soon and as early as you possibly can (as soon as the ground is workable), shallot and onion sets should be planted soon after.



Tomato Seedlings Started in The Garden Oracle's Greenhouse.  The Tomato Plants in This Photo are About Five Weeks Old from the Date of Sowing, and Have Been Potted Up into Individual Three Inch Pots.  They Were Originally Sown with Four Clusters of Three Seeds Each in The Same Size Pots.  Soon They Will be Ready for Planting Out with The Plants Set a Bit Deeper in the Ground than in The Pots to Encourage a Larger Root System.  Make Sure to Check Out the Large Assortment of Tomato Seeds Available Through the Vegetable Seeds Tab at the Top of this Site.
Tomato Seedlings
Kale Seedlings Started in The Garden Oracle's Greenhouse.  The Kale Plants in This Photo are About Four Weeks Old from the Date of Sowing and Are Ready for Planting Out in The Garden.  Kale is a Member of the Brassica Family and as Such is a Very Hardy Plant as far as Vegetables Go, but Depending on Temperatures and Weather Conditions a Cloche or Cold Frame may be Helpful to Provide Optimum Growing Conditions and Give Them A Happy Head Start on the Gardening Season - These Items are Available Through The Gardening Suppliers Listed Here on The Garden Oracle Site.
Kale Seedlings
Mizuna Seedlings Started in The Garden Oracle's Greenhouse.  The Mizuna Plants in This Photo are About Four Weeks Old from the Date of Sowing and Are Ready for Planting Out in The Garden.  Mizuna is a Type of Asian Mustard Green in the Brassica Family and is Wonderful Clipped Young for Salads or Mature Greens as a Garnish, Tossed into Stir Frys and other Asian Dishes or Sauteed with Garlic and Oil as a Delicious Side Dish. Depending on Temperatures and Weather Conditions a Cloche or Cold Frame may be Helpful to Provide Optimum Growing Conditions and Give Them A Happy Head Start on the Gardening Season - These Items are Available Through The Gardening Suppliers Listed Here on The Garden Oracle Site.
Mizuna Seedlings

The next round to be started indoors should be half-hardy or tender flowers and herbs to be planted out when the weather settles and warms to the appropriate temperature.  These include all types of basil, dill, chervil, marjoram, Greek oregano, summer savory, fennel, culantro, lemongrass, Mexican tarragon, stevia, perilla, hops, strawberries, asparagus, burdock, rhubarb, artichokes, cardoon, borage, violas, sweet peas, marigolds, nasturtiums, sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias, dahlias, chrysanthemums, calendula, coleus, rudbeckia, agastache, salvias (flowering sages), scabiosa, Chinese lanterns, gaillardia, lobelia, salpiglossis, monarda (bee-balm), dianthus, pinks and carnations, snapdragons, lupines, penstemon, wallflowers, thurnbergia, nicotiana, phlox, portulaca, asters, cannas, begonias, etc.  You can use small pots or cell-packs or even whole flats of mini-cells for most of these but the artichokes, cardoons, asparagus, dahlias, cannas, and begonias are best done in 3" pots becasue they have large fleshy or tubrous roots.  More hardy flowers including many common annuals, perennials and wildflowers often need cold to break seed dormancy and can be direct sown outdoors in late-winter/early-spring or the seed trays/pots set outside or in a cold-frame or even refrigerated for a week or two for cold-stratification; check your seed packet/supplier for more info on each variety.

Next are long-season tender veggies such as tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, currant tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, ground-cherries, bell peppers, hot peppers, sweet peppers, chilies, paprika, and okra that take a long time to mature to good-sized starts, these should be started about 1&1/2 to 2 months before your expected transplant date and up-potted to larger containers once or twice in that period and set slightly deeper each time to encourage healthy stout growth and roots.   Summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins, winter squash, melons, luffa and gourds grow relatively fast and are sensitive to being root-bound so should only be started about 3 to 4 weeks before transplant in warm weather.  I like to sow all of these crops in 3" pots with four groupings of seeds, one in each quadrant of the pot (2 to 3 seeds per group for tomatoes and peppers and thin/divide up later to get 4 plants out of each pot, the squash and cucumbers I plant 1 to 3 seeds per quadrant depending on size and after germination thin if necessary but plant the whole group out together in a hill or clump when ready).



Squash Seedlings Sprouting in The Garden Oracle's Greenhouse.  The Squash Plants in This Photo are About One Week Old from the Date of Sowing, and Have Been Sown with Four Seeds in Each Three Inch Pot (one in Each Quadrant) to Conserve Space on the Heat Mat.  After a Few Weeks They Will be Able to be Planted Out in Hills as a Cluster (Recommended), or They can be Carefully Divided Up in Another Week or Two into Individual Pots and Grown on For Planting out Separately. Use Caution as Plants in the Cucurbit Family (Zuchinni, Summer Squash, Winter Squash, Cucumbers, Pumpkins and Gourds) are a bit Sensitive to Root Damage and can Also get Root Bound Quickly in Small Pots.  Set Plants a Bit Deeper in the Ground than in The Pots to Encourage a Larger Root System when Planting Out.  Make Sure to Check Out the Large Assortment of Squash Seeds Available Through the Vegetable Seeds Tab at the Top of this Site.
Squash Seedlings
Corn Seedlings in The Garden Oracle's Greenhouse.  The Corn Plants in This Photo are About Three Weeks Old from the Date of Sowing and are Almost Ready for Planting Out in The Garden.  This Corn Has Been Sown in a Full Flat of 98 Mini-Cells with One or Two Seeds Per Cell, Which is Enough Corn for About a 4X10 Foot Garden Planting Bed with the Plants Spaced 8 Inches Apart and a 4 Inch Border, Or a 4X16 Foot Bed if You Space The Plants One Foot Apart with a 6 Inch Border.  Make Sure to Check Out the Large Assortment of Corn Seeds Available Through the Vegetable Seeds Tab at the Top of this Site; Including Early and Late Varieties, Sweet Corn, Super Sweet, Triple Sweet and Specialty Types.
Corn Seedlings
Pepper Seedlings Started in The Garden Oracle's Greenhouse.  The Pepper Plants in This Photo are About Four Weeks Old from the Date of Sowing, and are Ready to be Thinned, Divided and Potted Up into Individual Three Inch Pots with The Plants Set a Bit Deeper in the New Pots.  They Were Sown with Four Clusters of Three Seeds Each in Three Inch Pots.  After Growing on for a Few More Weeks they Will be Ready for Planting Out with The Plants Set a Bit Deeper in the Ground than in The Pots to Encourage a Larger Root System, or They can be Up-Potted into Large Pots at that Point for Greenhouse Culture.  Make Sure to Check Out the Large Assortment of Both Hot and Sweet Pepper Seeds Available Through the Vegetable Seeds Tab at the Top of this Site.
Pepper Seedlings

Beans (bush, pole, soy, lima, drying, runner and yard-long) and corn (sweet, super-sweet, double-sweet, triple-sweet, miniature, popping, decorative and feed-corn) along with most other other legumes & grains are usually sown in place when the soil warms above 50 degrees reliably although can easily be started indoors a month or so earlier to get a jump on the season. I like to start a dozen bean seeds per 3" pot to be planted out later one pot by each pole on a large teepee, tunnel or pergola or several pots worth under a trellis or along a fence (or in a cage for bush beans); corn I like to do in full flats of 98 mini-cells with one or two seeds per cell (two of these is enough corn for my 4'x16' bed spaced 8" apart with a few extras).

Tuberous crops like potatoes and oka can be started indoors if grown in large containers that can be moved outside later, but in-ground spuds are best planted directly in the garden from seed-potatoes after last frost when the soil is workable -- the same goes for perennial rhizome/root crops such as horseradish, wasabi, ginger, etc.

Most root veggies such as carrots, radishes, daikon, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, etc are best direct-sown in place in early spring and thinned to the appropriate spacing after germination (beets and onions can be direct sown and/or started early indoors in bulk, then divided up and planted out in correct spacing when large enough to handle).  Many of the afore-mentioned salad and cooking greens such as spinach, lettuce, kale, raab, mustards, Asian greens, arugula, etc along with peas and favas can be done the same way in addition to starting some indoors -- sow a row or two outdoors when putting out your starts you did a month earlier, this way you get a staged harvest.

To improve outdoor growing conditions for direct sowings and transplants early in the season you may want to set up a cloche or small hoop-house over your crops using wire or PVC hoops or other supports and garden fabric or plastic sheeting -- for more info on this see my post entitled "Growing Radishes Under a Cloche"





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