Spring is on the horizon. The days are getting longer, the sun provides more heat, seed packages are in the stores and equipment to start plants is readily available.
Indulge plant and get soil under your fingernails.
For the best results make sure the proper environment is provided for all seeds and cuttings.
A strong light, either natural or one that can be placed directly above the plants will help plants stems remain short and strong. LED lights do not give off as much heat as the fluorescent lights making it easier to control the temperature.
Bottom heat either through underfloor heating or a heating pad speeds up germination and encourages root growth.
Water with warm water when the soil is dry. Too much water often results in the stems damping off, meaning they rot just above the growing medium. Once the fungus starts it can spread rapidly. Remove all diseased plants and soil. Heating sand and spreading it on the soil surface of the remaining plants can help control an outbreak. There are no chemicals on the market to control the problem.
A fan that increases air circulation around the plants will decrease the growth of fungus and bacteria.
The temperature in the growing area should be one that can accommodate all varieties of plants in the area. If there is a choice, choose a lower temperature as the plants will grow slower and be stronger. Plants grow slower but stronger in lower temperatures.
Fertilize as recommended on the package. The fertilizer formula should contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potash. While nitrogen encourages the leaves and stems to grow, phosphorus and potash ensure that the roots and flowers develop and the stems are strong. Choosing a fertilizer with a balanced formula or one that is higher in potassium will benefit the plants.
Now is a good time to start cuttings. Choose healthy new growth as it will start the best plants.
Packaged bulbs are starting to appear on the shelves in big box stores. Packaged roots are ordered for all the stores across Canada by central office and must arrive in time to be sold in Canada’s warmest climate which means it comes early to colder areas. Neither stores nor warehouses have the facilities to store live material resulting in roots, corms and bulbs arriving a month or two before they can be planted outside.
Before purchasing any packaged root, look in the container to see if the root, bulb, tuber or corm has started to grow. If it is growing, it will need to be potted to survive. Feel root, bulbs, tubers and corms to ensure that it is firm and healthy.
The best time to buy packaged live material is as soon as they arrive in a store then store them in a cool area until it is time to plant in a pot or the ground. For some plants like dahlias, calla and canna lilies potting them up gives the plants a head start which is beneficial. Other roots such as gladiolas and Asiatic lilies will flower when directly planted into the ground.
Now is a good time to start cuttings and to plant seeds of slow growing plants.
Linda Tomlinson has gardened in central Alberta for over 30 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.