#25: Seed Starting: Setting Up a Calendar

Is anyone else feeling the winter blues or spring fever? I know we are over here at DUGS. With the warm weather coming in this week (by warm I mean 5 degrees, but that counts right?), getting our hands dirty is almost required! One way to do that: seed start! While it’s a bit early for some things, it’s not too early to set up your seed starting calendar and getting everything ready for the spring.

The Calendar:

A few resources I have used this year have explained the concept of a seed starting calendar. Here’s how it works:

  1. Organize your seeds based on seed starting time (12 weeks before last frost, 6 weeks before last frost, direct sow, etc).
  2. Figure out when your last frost is (May 1st for us here in Halifax, NS)
  3. Count backwards from last frost (12 weeks for the 12 week seeds, and so on)
  4. Find a day in there to plant seeds (Saturdays work great!) and mark that date for seed starting those seeds.
  5. Enjoy your well organized and planned schedule!

A few tweaks:

This schedule can be tweaked a bit depending on your garden set-up. At DUGS, we have a few cold-frames (see this blog) which means we can put our spring greens in the ground a bit early – we are aiming for mid- to late-march. If this is the case, you can start your greens early, based on when you think they will be in the ground.

Other things to consider:

  • If you are seed starting in a colder room, it might be wise to start a week or two early. Colder spaces will make your seeds germinate slower, meaning they will need a bit more time to grow.
  • Some plants will tolerate moderate frost, so you may be able to modify your schedule based on this as well.
  • As a rule, seeds that should be sowed directly should not be seed started (like squash). They grow quickly and don’t do too well in pots!

Other Information on Seed Starting:

Make sure that your seedlings are going to get enough Sun. This can be a real problem when the sun isn’t even up for 12 hours in Nova Scotia this time of year. We are using a grow light this year to make sure our plants get the light they need and grow strong. Grow lights can be purchased at most garden stores and some are (relatively) inexpensive. If you have a particularly bright window, you might be able to get away without a light.

seedlings
Picture from oldworldgardenfarms.com

Use good soil, seedlings will need the nutrients! And fertilize as they get stronger to ensure they are healthy for transplanting outside.

Some plants will require “hardening’ before being put outside. This just means that if they are moved directly outside in the cold, the shock of the temperature change will harm them.  This can be done by placing them outside in moderate temperatures (not too cold) for short times, slowly increasing the amount of time over the course of a week. Decrease the frequency of watering during this time and don’t fertilize.

Other than that, be creative and don’t be afraid to try something new. Seed starting can be a super rewarding way to start gardening sooner (even as soon as now if you are putting greens under a cold frame) and get better and earlier harvests!

Happy Gardening!

~ Landon Getz, External Coordinator

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