NDSU Extension - Griggs County

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March 2

The Extension Connection
By Megan Vig
The days are getting noticeably longer and the calendar shows we are getting closer to spring. It’s time to start thinking about getting seeds started! Join the NDSU Extension Office and Friends of the Griggs County Library at 7 pm on March 6th at the library to learn more about seed starting, and what varieties grow best in North Dakota.
Any gardener can appreciate the benefits of home-started seedlings. If you start your own seeds, you will have a much greater variety of vegetables, flowers, and herbs to choose from than if you just go down to the local garden center to pick up six-packs of nursery-raised starts. You will also be able to give your starts special personal care and time your plantings so the seedlings will be ready to go into the ground at just the right time. With many vegetables, flowers and herbs, you will want and need to get a jump on the typical North Dakota growing season by prestarting the plants in warm indoors before it is time to set them outdoors. What seeds need to grow is soil, temperature, moisture and light.
Soil. The first step is to make sure you have an appropriate growing medium for your plants. Inappropriate mixes can get rock hard after a few waterings. Your mix has to stay light and friable. Your planting mixture can be put into cutoff milk cartons, deep-sided disposable aluminum pans or special seed-starting systems. They should be at least 3 inches deep for roots to grow and have small holes for drainage. Make sure your containers are clean. Sterilizing containers with boiling water is a good idea.
Temperature. Many seeds are native to tropical or subtropical regions and are genetically programmed to grow only in warm soil temperatures. Generally seeds germinate better if their soil temperature is constantly 70˚F or above (and at the other end of the range, some germinate best at 80˚ to 85˚F). Keep seed trays in a consistently warm place. This could be near a floor register or wood stove. Another good solution is under and close to fluorescent lights as they are a source of additional warmth. Try to avoid a windowsill due to temperature fluctuations. Maintaining consistently warm temperatures, both day and night, signals the seeds to begin growing.
Moisture. Seeds need to be kept constantly moist in order to germinate. Never let the germination media dry out. The mix should be kept moist, but not too wet; the consistency of a just wrung-out sponge is about right and a good standard to use. Moisten the media thoroughly before sowing, mix it well to distribute moisture evenly, and be sure it doesn’t dry out afterwards. One easy aid is to drape a sheet of plastic wrap on top of newly planted seeds to keep moisture in. Be sure to check every single day to see if any seeds are starting to sprout. If they are, remove the cover so they can get some light and air circulation. Use a plastic spray bottle or watering can with a very fine hose so drops will fall very lightly on the soil. Use room temperature water and if your water is chlorinated, allow the water to stand for a day to allow the chlorine to dissipate.
Light. Most seeds don’t need light to germinate, just warmth, moisture, and darkness. Though once the seed has germinated and started sprouting, light is a necessity. For more information, check out NDSU publication H-1139 How to Succeed at Seed Starting or give us a call at 797-3312.

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