Garden Planning and Seed Starting

Spring is on its way!

by Marissa L. Tomasic

What a wintry February it has been!  Although it seems like the Spring gardening season is worlds away, now is the time for planning and preparations.  What better way to spend a snowy afternoon than "thinking spring" and laying down plans for your flower & vegetable gardens or home landscape?  It's also time to begin indoor seed sowing - the average last frost is only about 12 weeks away!

          When planning a garden or landscape design there are a few basics to consider.  How much space do you have?  Consideration should be given to the height and spread of your chosen landscape plants once they reach maturity.  Many perennials for example will spread over the years and can crowd out other plantings.  The good news is that gardens and landscapes are always a work in progress, as plants can always be moved, divided or removed; this process becomes the experience and joy of the gardening hobby!  Think you don't have the room for the garden you desire?  You'd be surprised at how much can be grown in the smallest of spaces - robust vegetable gardens can be grown in containers on a patio.  How much direct sunlight does your garden space receive?  Many vegetables require 8 hours of full sun, but many will do well with much less.  A good rule of thumb is to give flowering or fruiting plants (think tomatoes, eggplant and peppers) 8 hours of direct sun; foliage plants (think lettuces, kale and chard) can do with 4.  (A frequent exception to that rule is herbs, which usually prefer full sun and dry conditions.)   Landscape plants are cultivated nowadays to give gardeners and homeowners plenty of options for a variety of light conditions.  Other things to consider are soil quality, growth season and how much time and effort you would like to devote to your garden or landscape.  It's better to be proud of a small garden than frustrated by a large one; rest assured that there is a garden for every style of gardener.

          Another good preparation step is making sure you have the proper tools and supplies on hand.  Take advantage of this still-quiet time at the Nursery to shop for new or replacement tools like spades, garden forks, soaker hoses and pruning shears.  You'll choose from a full selection and have plenty of time to work with our staff if you have questions or need advice.

          Seed starting is a welcome pre-spring ritual.  Because of the short New England growing season, many of our favorite plants need a head start before they can be planted outdoors.  The first step is to select all the seeds you wish to plant.  We have our full stock of seeds ready - it's a lot of fun to spend some time perusing the wide array of seed packets, representing the promise of good things to come to your garden.  Once you have made your selections, sort them by the "when to sow" dates found on the packets.  Seeds like tomatoes, eggplant, onions, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, as well as many herbs need to be started indoors anywhere from 12 to 4 weeks before the average last frost date.  The average last frost date is usually around May 10th in eastern Massachusetts - that's a few days over 12 weeks from today.  Transplanting can be done anytime after 2 weeks after last frost.  Mark a calendar with "when to sow" and "when to transplant" dates for all of your seeds.

Seeds are tiny miracles, containing all the nutrients and genetics for their transformation into plants.  All they need to germinate is heat and water.  Seedlings will require light and grow media also.  We have all the seed starting supplies you'll need or desire, including heat mats, seed trays, artificial lights, seed starting grow mixes, and more.  Our staff is happy to help you navigate your seed starting process, whether you are a beginner or expert.

           Although the landscape is winter white, rest assured that the promise of spring is waiting just beneath the snow.  A little planning and a little preparation will whittle the remaining winter days away and ensure a healthy and beautiful garden to come.