Starting Seeds Indoors

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Make sure you have the right conditions and equipment for starting seeds indoors.

You should have a sunny area, preferably a greenhouse or a place with light coming from above. Many people believe that a window with a southern exposure is ideal. They end up with a lot of leggy plants leaning toward that window.

Growing Plants Under Lights Indoors

For stocky, healthy transplants, it's hard to beat this lighting system.

If you don't have a greenhouse or overhead sunlight, you can grow your transplants indoors under lights. The seeds can be germinated in darkness, but must be moved into full light the minute they sprout. You can construct a fairly simple setup with fluorescent lights. It must be adjustable so the lights can be brought down very close to the plants, then kept several inches above their tops as they grow.


You need a controlled temperature of about 70° F., twenty-four hours a day, for germination. That temperature is too warm for the plants or seedlings, and causes them to grow too quickly and become leggy. Ideally, you'll start your seeds at 70°, then move the tiny plants under the fluorescent lights where temperatures of 50° at night and 60° in the daytime can be maintained.

The procedure for cash gardening is the same as was described in chapter three, except that for a cash garden, you'll be starting far more seeds.

Planting Outdoors

For those seeds that you're going to plant outdoors, it's just a matter of deciding when it's safe to plant them. The charts in chapter twelve will give you a general idea, and your observation of the weather will help you to make up your mind.

It's worthwhile in early spring to help the soil warm up by covering the beds with clear plastic. Then you can plant your seeds and cover the bed with one of the wire and plastic bed covers. You'll want to be careful to vent these devices so the heat doesn't build up and cook the young plants.

These precautions are just for the early crops. Later plantings will need a different kind of protection, from drying out or being washed out by heavy rains. Covers help for both of these.


Once you start harvesting, you'll have empty squares. When should you replant them? Immediately upon harvest. As an example, you are harvesting bibb lettuce and every week four square feet are available for replanting. Since rotating your crops makes sense, you'd probably put in a root crop next, something that requires different nutrients.

Let's say you need thirty carrots a week — two square feet of them. The lettuce gives up four square feet every week, you'll have carrots in two square feet — and two more feet of space. You could assign that space to another fast-growing crop such as radishes, but don't worry too much about small spaces, since it will all balance out with another crop in a few weeks.

Some people have suggested the use of a personal computer to figure out how to best utilize space. If you have one (I don't yet), and you're into that sort of thing, go ahead. But for you who don't, don't be scared off. There is no need for rigid rules, and succession crops don't have to be planted near each other.

One last word about planting charts. You don't have to project the exact number of plants that you should plant and harvest, if you follow the marketing advice in chapter four. If you convince your buyer to take whatever you have because you're going to give him only your best, you don't have to bring him an exact amount every week. If you're a little short of one item, you might have extra of another. This allows you to make the maximum profit from every square foot and to have little, if any, waste.


The last step in preparing your garden is moving your transplants out. Check the frost charts to make sure it is safe. Consult your garden charts to see where to plant each variety. Have all your equipment ready. Have a bucket of warm water, a cup, a trowel, any spacing device you have constructed, a kneeling pad, sunshades to put over the plants, and any pest controls.

Chicken wire cages are useful against rabbits; for protection against birds and other pests, cover your wooden frames with bird netting or screening.

Vegetable Cages And Netting
This chicken-wire cage will protect your crops from rabbits and birds.

(One of the easiest ways to grow organically is to provide a fine-mesh screened cover so insects can't get into the crop to lay their eggs.)

The best day for transplanting is the day before you can be around your garden all day. The second day is critical for transplants, and you should keep an eye on them.

Since you'll be using protective cages for your transplants, the time of day when you put them out isn't as critical as it is in conventional gardening. However, the best time of day is in mid-afternoon, when the sun is losing its intensity. Mid-morning is not as good, because the plant is subject to strong sunlight and heat for the rest of the day. Early evening is not bad, but you are subjecting the plant to cooler temperatures very soon after transplanting.

Don't plant in strong sunlight, or if you have to, shade the area with your body as you plant. Give the plants a drink of water assoon as you put them in the ground. And put up sunshades, and wind protection if needed, as soon as you've completed your planting.

Protection during the next week is critical. Your sunshades should stay up for one to three days, depending on the weather and time of year.

And you should look over your young transplants daily. In a square foot garden, that's easy. You're usually out there every day, and it doesn't take long to check over a small garden.

Early spring lettuce is protected by this wire cage. from Square Foot Gardening

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Building Your Own Greenhouse

Building Your Own Greenhouse

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  • kaija
    How to use vegetable netting?
    8 years ago

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