Starting Plants IndoorsSeeds can be germinated and seedlings started in a box,Starting Vegetable Garden best scrog & Plants Indoors Articles pan or flowerpot of soil in a window. In addition to having at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day, the room must be kept reasonably warm at all times.
Washed fine sand and shredded sphagnum moss are excellent media in which to start seeds. Place a layer of easily drained soil in the bottom of a flat and cover this soil with a layer – about three-fourths inch thick – of either fine sand or sphagnum moss. Press the sand or moss to form a smooth, firm seedbed.
Then, using a jig, make furrows in the seedbed one-half inch deep. Water the sand or moss thoroughly and allow it to drain.
Sow seeds thinly in the rows and cover the seeds lightly with a second layer of sand or moss. Sprinkle the flat, preferably with a fine mist, and cover the flat with a sheet of clear plastic film. The plastic film diffuses and subdues the light and holds moisture in the soil and air surrounding the seeds. Plastic films offer advantages over glass coverings in that they are light in weight and are nonshattering.
Place the seeded and covered flat in a location that is reasonably warm at all times and has 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. The flat will require no further attention until after the seedlings have developed their first true leaves. They are then ready to transplant to other containers.
It is seldom possible to keep the transplanted plants in house windows without their becoming spindling and weak. For healthy growth, place them in a hotbed, coldframe, or other place where they will receive an abundance of sunshine, ample ventilation, and a suitable temperature.
Strong, vigorous seedlings can be started under 40-watt fluorescent tubes. These tubes should be 6 to 8 inches above the seedlings. Temperatures should be about 60F at night and 70F during the day. Best results are obtained if the fluorescent fixture is next to a window to increase the amount of light reaching the young plants.
Soil pellets are the simplest and easiest method for starting plants and are readily available from garden supply stores and other sources. Soil pellets are a well-balanced synthetic soil mixture and are free of soilborne diseases and weeds.
Special Devices for Starting Plants
In determining the type of equipment for starting early plants, the gardener must consider the temperature and other climatic conditions in his locality, as well as the nature of the plants to be started. Hardy plants, such as cabbage, need only simple inexpensive facilities, but such heat-loving, tender seedlings as peppers and eggplant must have more elaborate facilities for successful production. In the warmer parts of the United States, and in the well-protected locations elsewhere, a coldframe or a sash-covered pit on the sunny side of a building usually suffices. In colder sections, or in exposed areas elsewhere, some form of artificial heat is essential. Where only a little protection against cold damage is needed, a coldframe in which a temporary bank of lamps can be placed may be sufficient. The hotbed, lean-to, or sash greenhouse heated by manure, pipes, flues, or electricity are all widely used, the choice depending on conditions. A comparatively small plant-growing structure will provide enough plants for several gardens, and joint efforts by a number of gardeners will usually reduce the labor of producing plants.
The plant-growing structure should always be on well-drained land free from danger of flooding. A sunny, southern exposure on a moderate slope, with trees, a hedge, a board fence, or other form of windbreak on the north and west, makes a desirable site. Plenty of sunshine is necessary.
Hotbeds and other plant-growing devices require close attention. They must be ventilated at frequent intervals, and the plants may require watering more than once daily. Convenience in handling the work is important. Sudden storms may necessitate closing the structure within a matter of minutes. Plant growing at home should not be undertaken by persons obliged to be away for extended periods, leaving the plant structure unattended.
A tight well-glazed structure is necessary where the climate is severe; less expensive facilities are satisfactory elsewhere.
Covers for hotbeds and coldframes may be glass sash, fiber glass, plastic film, muslin, or light canvas.
In the moderate and cooler sections of the country, standard 3- by 6-foot hotbed sash is most satisfactory. Even this requires supplementary covering with canvas, blankets, mats, or similar material during freezing weather. The amount of covering is determined by the degree of heat supplied the structure, the severity of the weather, and the kind of plants and their stage of development. Farther South, where less protection is necessary, a muslin cover may be all that is needed and for only a part of the time.