Gardening: When it comes to seeds make sure you plan and prepare

Seed catalogues have been arriving in the mail for the last month while packages are for purchase in local stores. This along with warm weather and longer days makes it feel like spring is just around the corner. Thoughts then go to starting plants. Resist the temptation.

Cuttings such as geranium and Fuchsia should be taken when the plants have put out new growth. Moving last year’s plants into a brighter area and watering more often will help them break dormancy and start growing. Once the new growth appears cuttings can be taken. Taking cuttings from older growth with a thicker, tougher outer layer is not as successful as it is harder for the root buds emerge.

Each cutting should have two to three leaves. Too many leaves and the plants intake will not support them. Too few leaves and the plant can’t manufacture enough food to support new growth.

For best results use sterilized soil and clean containers. Water when the soil is dry, giving the containers enough water that excess water runs out of the container bottom.

Some cuttings start well in water. Change the water regularly and keep all leaves out of the water. Leaves that soak in water rot.

When starting cuttings from cacti or succulents, let the cut callus or heal over before placing them in soil. This can take a couple of days or weeks depending on the size of cut and variety of plant.

Seeds started at this time of year will become viable plants if they take a long time to germinate or are very slow growing. Typical bedding plants can be started 8 to 10 weeks before they are to be set outside. Start plants too soon and they tend to become over grown by the time they should be set out.

The following charts, are ones widely used in the greenhouse industry. Seeding times are given from seeding to flower. Note that times are also given from plugs to flower. This is because named cultivars are not sold as seed but as cuttings or started plants, plugs.

Greenhouses start plants earlier than most homeowners for a couple of reasons. One is to place them in larger containers such as planters or hanging baskets for sale.

The other reason is to have them blooming in the greenhouse as they look more inviting and the customer is likely to purchase more plants.

For those who plan to start their own plants from seed. Take time now to plan and purchase the seeds. Read the requirements of each variety of seeds to insure that it is possible to provide the environment needed for the plant to thrive. Besides certain temperatures, seeds can need complete darkness or a cold period before they germinate.

Collect and clean all the containers needed. Any container can be used to start seeds as long as they will hold soil and have drainage holes where excess moisture can escape. The larger the container, the larger the root will grow without becoming root bound, roots wrapped around and around the inside of the pot. Plants that are not root bound, transplant with less shock or setback as their roots will be left intact when they are planted. The roots on a rootbound plant need to be cut apart for them to grow into the surrounding soil.

The size of pot is often a compromise between the amount of plants wanted and the room available. Plan accordingly. When using small containers or many plants in one container, seed later so the plants will not be rootbound at transplant time.

Take the time to plan and get prepared. There is plenty of time to plant later.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at

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