A SEEDSTARTING ROU­TINE

Country Gardens - - Garden Know-how -

For New Jersey gar­dener Barb Stiehl, start­ing flow­ers from seed has be­come se­cond na­ture. As she puts it, “From the moment the seeds ar­rive, I just march along.”

HERE’S HER ROU­TINE:

• Us­ing a seed-start­ing soil mix­ture, she plants seeds in cell trays with clear plas­tic cov­ers that hold in hu­mid­ity un­til sprouts ap­pear.

• In her base­ment, she po­si­tions the trays on heat­ing mats be­low LED and flu­o­res­cent light­bulbs on timers sus­pended by drop chains to ad­just the height as the seedlings grow.

• In mid-april, she be­gins mov­ing seedlings to the un­heated green­house to in­crease the light and strengthen them. If very cold weather ar­rives, a heater is used to warm the green­house.

• Seed trays are moved out­doors when the weather warms.

BARB’S AN­NUAL SEED-SOW­ING CAL­EN­DAR

for her av­er­age last frost date of May 15:

FE­BRU­ARY 20: Gera­ni­ums

FE­BRU­ARY 27: Im­pa­tiens

MARCH 6: Snap­drag­ons, Shasta daisies, petu­nias, dusty miller, and Phlox drum­mondii

MARCH 20: Toma­toes, pep­pers, pars­ley, salvia, ager­a­tum, and Ver­bena bonar­ien­sis

MARCH 27: China aster, Titho­nia, and bas­ket flower.

APRIL 3: Eg­g­plant, broc­coli, and ama­ranth

APRIL 10: Nigella and He­liop­sis

APRIL 25: Basil, Cen­tau­rea, cu­cum­ber, squash, and wa­ter­melon

MAY: Di­rect-sow seeds that ger­mi­nate in the gar­den such as zin­nia, nas­tur­tium, and marigold.

Among Barb’s thrifty se­crets is her plant-la­bel sub­sti­tute. She uses plas­tic knives to la­bel seedlings such as Al­ter­nan­thera ‘Pur­ple Knight’, Vista Pur­ple salvia, and an­gelo­nia. “It’s so much less ex­pen­sive than buy­ing la­bels,” she says.

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