Last week, we shared a March garden checklist. Today, we’re buried in snow! It’s hard to believe we’ll be gardening outside soon, but that seems to be how March weather works on Long Island. In a blink, the snow will be gone, the soil will be workable, and the bulbs we planted last fall will start peeking through the ground. But still, there’s something depressing about such a big snowstorm in March. Gardening always snaps us out of the doldrums and, lucky for us, this is a great time to start seedlings indoors! So we thought we’d expand upon this task from our March checklist with a more complete post.
Heritage Farm and Garden is proud to supply Jiffy seed starting kits. These kits come with everything you need to start seedlings indoors and are perfect for novice or expert gardeners alike! Here’s our step-by-step guide for using the kits and getting the best results possible.
- This may seem obvious, but choose your seeds! What do you want to plant this year? Broccoli, kohlrabi, lettuces, beets, and cauliflower all do very well if you start them as seedlings now. Flowers and herbs also can be started from seed now. But hold off on tomatoes and peppers — those shouldn’t be started until late March or early April. We have a wide selection of vegetable, herb, and flower seeds, including USDA certified organic vegetable seeds and flower mixes intended to attract pollinators or birds and hummingbirds.
- The Jiffy kits come with peat pellets, which are small circles of dehydrated peat held together with a fine mesh net. Place one peat pellet in each section of the provided tray. We suggest starting a few more seeds than you actually intend to plant because not every seed will sprout.
- Add enough water to cover each pellet and wait five to ten minutes. You’ll see the peat pellets expand (our favorite part!). Add more water if necessary and, once the pellets have expanded to full size, drain off any excess water.
- You may notice that some of the mesh netting has moved to cover the tops of the peat pellets. If this happens, shift the mesh so the top of the pellet is uncovered. We find pencils or toothpicks to be handy little tools for this! You may also want to tear the top of the mesh a bit to provide more space to plant seeds.
- Dig a small well in the top of the peat. Again, you can use your pencil or toothpick for this.
- Plant one or two seeds in each section of the tray and cover with peat.
- Unless you have a better memory than us, remember to label your plantings!
- Then, simply cover the tray with the provided top and place the tray out of direct sunlight.
- Check the tray daily. Only water if the peat appears very dry. You want it to be moist but not soaking wet.
- Once the plants sprout, uncover and move them to a sunny spot in your home — aim for about six hours of direct sunlight per day. You also can use a growing lamp which will ensure the seedlings get just the right amount of light each day. If two seeds have sprouted in a single section of the tray, pinch one off. Also, you may notice that some seeds sprout sooner than others. Only move those seedlings which have sprouted. This may require you to separate some of the seedlings into another tray.
- Watch the seedlings grow! We recommend checking the roots frequently. If it appears the roots are pushing outside the mesh netting on the bottom but it’s still too cold to transplant them outside, you’ll want to transfer them to a larger pot so the roots have more room to grow. When you can transplant them outdoors will depend on what you plant and how cooperative the weather is.
- We like to transition our seedlings to the outdoors slowly, by taking the pots outside for a few hours per day at first and gradually increasing the time outside. This also allows us to bring the pots inside if the weather is fickle (again!) and temps dip for a day or two. This isn’t a necessary step, but one we recommend.
- When it’s time to transplant, simply remove the plants from the pot (working gently and carefully around the roots) and place in your prepared soil. Water right away and then care for the plant as usual.
VOILA! If you follow these simple steps, you could be munching on fresh lettuce and broccoli or watching bees and hummingbirds flit around your flowers by the end of May! As always, our knowledgeable staff are always available and happy to provide additional guidance. If you start seedlings in the next week or so, please share photos on our Facebook and/or Instagram pages — we LOVE to see what our customers are growing!