By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
Ten days ago, as temperatures hit the 60s, I looked at the fresh-cut tree I had gotten at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market in December. It still smelled fresh but was drying out. Time to take it down and to think about filling its space with seed trays for the spring.
Farmers who bring the earliest spring herbs and vegetables to market often start seeds under grow lights, on heating mats, and in greenhouses. They rely on such innovations as high tunnels to prolong the garden season. Backyard gardens usually remain a mass of frozen soil until April.
Still, now is a good time to plan a spring garden, order seeds, and gather supplies.
Local gardening expert Sadie Ross recommends starting seedlings in starter pots or seedling trays and covering them with some kind of clear plastic to simulate a greenhouse. She often uses clear plastic deli tray covers. She recommends filling the starter pots with potting soil, dropping seeds on top and covering them with about 1/8 of an inch of soil. These pots should be watered lightly once a day with a spray bottle until the seeds germinate and sprout two true leaves.
How does one know when to plant certain seeds?
Many experts recommend creating a growing calendar with the last frost date as a pivot point. Charts listing when to start seeds indoors and when to transplant seedlings or direct sow outdoors are widely available on seed company and gardening websites. Nearly all are based on that frost date.
After taking down my tree, I created a growing calendar, based on our area’s last frost date of May 20. Working with charts on the Hudson Valley Seed Company’s website, I found out that while I can start celery and celeriac this weekend, and parsley, onions, and chives next weekend, I should hold off on starting my favorite greens and root vegetables until mid-April, as they’re best transplanted in mid-May.
“There isn’t much that one can start indoors this early,” says Ross. “Wait a few more weeks.”
Patience can pay off. As I’ve learned from years past, poor conditions will kill your plants. But when the time is right, they’ll thrive.
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