Seeds can be a fun way to introduce new plants and save lots of money. But they can also be troublesome for the lazy, inconsistent gardener and I usually plan on losing quite a few of mine, though I still enjoy trying and am happy with the additions to my landscape from the annual effort. On rainy or cold days early in the year I review my packets and plant the seeds inside on the coffee table while watching a movie thus mixing my favorite pastimes of gardening and being a couch potato. If you have young children, growing seeds is an exciting family edu-tainment project.
It's getting a bit late for using seeds indoors to get an early start (you could have started in February), but our last frost isn't usually until the last of April (early May if you are as far north as Louisville) so it's still early to sow most outside unless you do have a system for protecting them. The losses I experience with seeds come mostly from inconsistent watering and wind damage. If your circumstances allow, you can have great results by building or purchasing a greenhouse or hotboxes. In my case I purchase the mini "greenhouses" that are plastic trays with clear lids.
The pellets that go with these, while really cool are much more labor intensive and are more unforgiving when you forget to water, turning hard as rock very quickly. So now I use a bag of seed starter soil with either the peat pot rectangular strips or saved empty 3, 4 and 6 pack plastic containers from previous purchases. There are many options in bagged soils developed for seedlings including organic options from even the mainstream brands. You could use dirt from your yard, but these bagged products are very light weight and easy for the delicate seedling roots to push through, plus most contain additives for feeding and promoting growth.
It's nice to be able to plant the peat pots directly, but when I forget to bring my trays inside before a storm they sometimes get blown over and can be hard to salvage as the peat pots start disintegrating when handled. They also can't be reused. Amplifier writer Franne J., who raises many hard to find herbs from seed gave me an awesome tip recently and that is using old draws with a window placed over them as a hotbox, all materials that can be found on the curbside and are heavy enough to withstand most Spring storm winds. Free materials, no assembly required - sounds good!
There are some seeds and plants that can go straight in the ground despite a likely frost. Snow peas, sugar snap peas and spinach as well as cole crops such as broccoli and cabbage do well in cooler weather (some people mistakenly assume they are called cold crops, but it is cole as in coleslaw). Impatiens, pansies and even petunias are very durable plants. I figure most things that survive into December as these do are fairly safe to plant early. If a particularly cold snap damages them try salvaging the plant by cutting it almost all the way back, getting rid of all brownish or translucent appearing leaves and stems.
If your seedlings are indoors, remember to harden them off by putting them in the shade for a few days before planting them in full sun. This prevents death by shock and sunburn.
Seeds can be found at local garden centers as well as online. If you buy them locally, generally they have been selected for this area. If you are searching for something more unusual online, be sure to check if they are hardy in our zone. Kentucky is zone 6 with temperatures ranging from -10 to 105.
Kim's love of gardening was instilled in her by her mother who creates pristine, lush landscaping worthy of a botanical garden using by the book methodology and sweat equity. Kim achieves positive results cultivating more naturalized, informal gardens with techniques involving the least amount of energy, time and money feasible. Learn about both their techniques throughout the month in the Lifestyle section at www.Amplifier.BGDailyNews.com