Starting transplants

Many gardeners choose to grow their own garden transplants in order to enjoy them earlier in the growing season. Starting your own transplants also allows for a selection of specific cultivars that may be unavailable for purchase locally. Why not try your hand at growing a few seeds this year and enjoy the personal satisfaction received from starting your own garden transplants.

Many flowers and vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and cabbage, are best set out as transplants rather than seeded directly into the garden. Onions grown indoors from seed and planted outdoors in May will produce the best bulbs and also will store better than those started from sets. Annual flowers including ageratum, marigolds and petunias may also be started indoors in March.

Be sure to use new or sterilize any used seed starting containers, as disease be present. Damping off is a common fungal disease of seedlings, in which rot occurs at the base of seedlings. Wash well, then soak containers in a 10 percent bleach solution to help kill any disease organisms present. Many folks feel it is safest to start seeds by using new trays each year.

Cool, wet soil conditions are favorable for infection by damping off fungi. Supplying bottom heat helps make seedlings less vulnerable to fungal attack.

Chose a potting mix designed for seed starting. As a general rule, larger seeds are planted deeper and farther apart than smaller seeds. Some small seeds, such as petunia, may need no soil covering to germinate.

Once germination has occurred, the addition of supplemental lighting gives best results to avoid elongation or stretching of the seedlings. Keep the lights close to the young seedlings and transplant to larger containers as the plants grow.

Did you know? For further information on starting annual flowers and vegetables at home, see the ISU publication PM 874, “Starting Garden Transplants” available at your local ISU Extension Office. Or download by visiting the Extension On-line Store at: www.store.extension.iastate.edu

Gardening Questions? Contact McCormick at yvonne@iastate.edu for information or advice.