Follow these suggestions with early seed planting

If you are as impatient as I am, you are at least thinking about planting seeds. I am worse than that; I already have a flat on top of the refrigerator with snapdragons and impatiens just beginning to germinate.

Those two annuals take 10-12 weeks to grow enough for planting out, and I am being generous with the count and expecting a warm, damp spring.

I have the basement lights ready over the workbench, and the seeds are sorted into categories according to the length of time it takes them to germinate and then to be nurtured in the basement, hardened off and then finally planted outside in May or June.

All this information can be found on the seed packet. The nursery people who sell the seeds are anxious you are successful and satisfied with their product, so they give you all you need to know about sowing and subsequent care.

The information will vary from one species to another in such vital facts as whether to cover the seed, how deep to plant it and so on. Be sure to read it carefully for a successful outcome.

The official average date for the last frost in our area is around May 15, although this varies from year to year and is just an average, so you need to be flexible.

I start my seeds in the handy trays one can buy for that purpose, already filled with soilless planting mix. At least two seeds need to go into each individual cell. I find the top of the fridge is the best place to start everything, at least until most have germinated. That spot is warm and light, and right there as I check them every morning and mist as needed.

Some seeds, such as petunias, have tiny seed, which is difficult to plant, and it is impossible to count how many you are dealing with unless you are lucky enough to find pelleted seed, which has a clay coating and is easier to handle.

Soilless mix is ideal for seeds. It contains vermiculite or similar material, has good water retention and also drains properly, is loose, has uniform structure and contains no insects or weed seeds.

Never use garden soil for indoor seeds, even if it is free.

There are many containers that work perfectly well for this first step in your garden. Recycling yogurt or similar containers is good. Just poke a hole in the bottom for drainage. You can buy a wooden mold that can be used to fashion pots out of newspaper, cut down milk cartons, work with small terracotta or plastic pots, or buy the peat pellets or tiny peat pots that are sold for the purpose.

Your instructions will spell out the necessary depth for the seeds. Some of them need light to germinate, others will have to be covered with soil until those first leaves appear.

If you have been generous with the amount you plant, you will have to harden your heart and resort to murder to thin them out once the seedlings are looking healthy. I always leave two at least, and often plant them together if I cannot bring myself to dispose of one, or if they are so close it would endanger them to be separated.

Use a fine mist to water, or water from the bottom. Although our Tiffin city water supply is fine for people, it is not good for plants. The chlorine and other chemicals that make it safe and pleasant for us are harmful to growing things in their early life, so it is worth splurging on bottled water for this use.

Melted clean snow or thawed chunks of ice from the rain barrel are fine, too.

If the weather cooperates, the first seeds can go directly into the garden by mid-April and include peas, sweet peas, beets, carrots, radishes, spinach, turnips, lettuce and chard, along with nasturtiums, sweet alyssum, asters, primroses, delphinium, dusty miller and others.

So, even if it does not look pleasant outside, keep a few seeds growing to keep your spirits up and show the promise of a happy summer to come.

Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.

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