Well, the rain keeps coming down, and I find myself continually checking on my seedlings to remind me that Spring is on the way! So here is a little more info on trickier plants to start, as well as sowing tomatoes and peppers. Yes. I know it seems awfully early, but starting the season with strong healthy transplants will give you more chin dripping juicy tomatoes, and crunchy, sweet peppers.
It's time to refer back to your seed packets again for timing requirements. It may seem like we are having an early spring, but last year we had snow in April, so resist that temptation to try and push the season. I know, I know, you want to have the best garden on the block.
Seeds that I usually sow inside in March include Walla Walla or other sweet onions, lots of broccoli, Cabbage (my favourite is Charmant because you can space them closely for smaller heads, and they rarely split ), cauliflower, lettuce, leeks, parsley, peppers, early tomatoes, chives, and sage and thyme if my plants are getting woody.
There are some perennials that flower the first year if you start them now too, including Echinacea (yippee, we all love it), Rudbeckia hirta, Gaura, lupines, platycodon or balloon flower, and violets. These perennials may flower later this year, but will be back on track for next year. It's also time to begin allysum, marigolds, cosmos and calendula. Hopefully you already have your sweet peas started, but if not, it's still possible.
One way to increase your germination on very fine seeds is to not bury them in the potting mix, but instead topdress your seeding flat, pots or whatever container you use, with fine gravel or vermiculite. I first tried this on marigolds and alliums, and now I supply all my friends with marigolds. .Water from the bottom up if possible, or use a fine mist spray . This stops tender little seedlings and seeds from being washed around in the pot. Seedling do love an occasional light misting though. You can see them smile!
When it's time to transplant, remember to wait at least until the first true leaves are showing and then handle them by a leaf not the stem. If you crush the stem you lose the whole plant, but if you only crush a leaf the seedling will still grow.
I love sweet red peppers!!. So I'm always eager to get them started. Now until early April is the perfect time for them, as tomatoes too. Both like lots of warmth to sprout, and bottom heat will guarantee better success. If you don't have a heat mat or heat coils, try the top of your fridge. It's worked pretty well for me in the past.
Once sprouted, tomato seedling do well around 50 degrees for 6 to 8 weeks, while peppers prefer 65 – 75 degrees in the day, and a little cooler at night. This may mean a morning and nightly chore of moving the seedlings. Don't let either get rootbound, and instead transplant into 4” pots
West Coast Seeds tell me to let the transplanted pepper seedlings have 4 weeks of slightly cooler ( 55 degrees) nights. This is to ensure good fruit set ie lots of peppers! I must admit that hot pepper varieties usually do better for me. I get better and faster germination and stronger, less fussy seedlings.
We all have favourite varieties of peppers and tomatoes, but I have to tell you mine. Peppers. I always grow include Nardello and Red Bulls Horn for sweet, and Jalapeno and Hungarian Hot Wax (so reliable) for hot peppers.
This year I'm also trying some of the sweet Mini Red Bell. I've grown Amish paste tomatoes for 10 plus years, and they always give me a huge crop for tasty tomato paste for the winter. As well I grow Sweet 100's, Sungold (hardy, tasty and prolific), Yellow Brandywine and the harder to find Garden Peach.
Every year I hope for a better, more productive and beautiful garden. This year I am hampered by having no greenhouse yet, so my seeds are a bit slower, but they are coming. However having no veggie patch is not a likelihood in my life.
“The love of a garden is a seed once sown, that never dies.” said the famous Gertrude Jekyll.
So if you have the “bug” come into Arts Nursery. It's a great nursery with everything you need to start your garden with friendly and very helpful staff.