By Bob Hearle
By now I assume you have had your soil tested, or are on your way. In a later column I will discuss how to interpret the results and decide what to do next.
For now, we need to direct our attention to seed propagation. Most of you have probably already purchased some seed packets at the garden store. Perhaps you also receive seed catalogs in the mail. One of the largest and most famous seed suppliers is right here in our backyards: Park Seed Co. in Greenwood.
Regardless of where your seeds are obtained, including those you may have saved from 2010, there are a few important things to remember. If you purchased them they should be labeled "Packed for the 2011 season." This assures they are fresh. If you collected your own, hopefully you stored them in a cool, dry environment.
Perhaps you haven't bought your seeds yet, so keep the following in mind:
Armed with the right seed, you are now ready to begin sowing and harvesting. The first choice is the container. A "flat" a few inches deep or a tray made for seed growth that has a multiple of cells will both work.
Chosing the soil mix comes next. Do not use garden soil or a heavy mixture. There are mixes made specifically for growing seeds. You can make your own by mixing shredded sphagnum peat with vermiculite. The mix need not be deeper than 1 or 2 inches.
Place one seed per cell on top of the soil if the seed is small or cover with 1/8 or 1/4 inch of the medium if the seed is large. Spray mist with water until uniformly moist. Each cell should be dampened to about 1 inch deep.
Next, place the tray in a large plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap. Seal the bag or wrap. Place it in indirect light. It is possible to purchase a heating mat to place under the tray. Warmth from below will encourage germination. No, a heating pad cannot be used as a substitute.
Check periodically to make sure they stay moist. Sit back and watch the germination unfold before your eyes.
Once germinated, the seed trays should be mored to a warmer climate with bright light. Ideally the temperature is 55 to 60 degrees at night and 65 to 70 during the day.
Two to four weeks before the final frost (April 15 in our area so not too taxing to remember) move the seedlings outdoors to a protected area. When all danger of frost is over, they can be planted in the garden.
As your plants thrive and provide spectacular blooms or mouth-watering veggies, you can recall that you made it all possible.
Next: Prune for health and growth
Bob Hearle is a certified master gardener who lives and gardens at Pawleys Island.