Snow Day Seed Starting

Snow Day Seed Starting

It is a snow day here on Cape Cod. Just enough is falling to make everything look magical. Trees, shrubs and garden tools alike are instantly rendered more interesting. But after admiring the changing landscape, I’m getting down to business answering some of the emails that have come into the store in the past couple of days. snowy_wheelbarrow Ken wrote to ask if he really needed special soil to start his vegetable seeds. I replied that seed starting mix is a very worthwhile investment. Garden soil doesn’t work well because it’s full of weed seeds and assorted fungi. There are several fungi that can cause the condition called “damping off,” where young seedlings suddenly keel over dead as a fungus attacks the tender tissues at soil level. It’s also heavy so that the roots don’t penetrate as easily. So garden soil and even compost isn’t the best choice. But Ken wondered if he could use the normal potting soil that he already has. Usually this will work as long as the potting mix is fairly new and has been stored well. If you’ve had the bag on hand for a long time, however, especially in a location where it’s hot and/or damp, you might be asking for fungal problems when you use it for new seedlings. Some potting mixes have larger pieces of bark, or time-release fertilizers that might effect germinating seeds adversely. Finally, seed starting mix stays damp for quite awhile, and this helps with germination. If you get the seed starting mix wet first, and then fill your containers and plant the seeds, the mix will stay moist until the seeds sprout if you’ve covered everything with a sheet of plastic wrap. When we start our Country Garden Grown Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Squash we use the Espoma Organic Seed Starting Mix. seedstarting Mary also wrote for seed starting information. She wants to grow broccoli for the first time and wonders when she should start her seeds. I told her that she can start a batch in late-February or early March for planting in April (weather permitting, of course) and that she might also want to start a few more in May for a second planting in June. Finally, I reminded Mary about the seed starting talk on Sunday, February 28th at 1 PM.


Sarah sent us an email asking about a houseplant that has turned a sick yellow color. “It used to be green and healthy looking, but all the leaves are yellow or yellow-white now!” I explained that there are several possibilities when it comes to yellow plants, and it might actually be a combination of problems. Yellowing leaves is often a sign of over-watering. If a plant is kept too wet the roots will rot and the leaves will yellow and wilt. A yellow plant might also be root-bound. If the plant has been in the same pot for more than two years, or if the pot is very small, that could cause what she is seeing. Some plants have a natural life-cycle and yellow as they come to the end of their lives…this is especially true of some holiday or gift plants that aren’t intended to live forever. Although it could be a sign of nutrient deficiencies, this is often a side-effect of being in old soil or very pot bound. I invited Sarah to bring her plant into our Houseplant Rescue day on March 13th. She’ll learn if it can be Saved or if it’s time to Say Goodbye!

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