“Can’t wait to garden?  Start seeds now.”

By Vicki Matsumonji

Yes, spring is just around the corner but despite more sunny days and higher temperatures, it’s still too early to start planting outside.  The gardeners at White Mountain Community Garden have started tomato plants that will go in the ground in the high tunnel mid-March.  Our target date is always March 15. 

A number of members who contribute tomato and pepper starts have to plant their seeds indoors in late January or in February.  We have the convenience of the high tunnel to protect the seedlings as they grow; however, it’s not a heated green house.  The temperatures fluctuate daily which can go into the 70’s, even 100° in the heat of the day and plummet to the 20’s at night.  The key for us is to monitor the soil temperature and plant when it maintains 

50°-- the ideal temperature for planting starts.  We must surround the plants with Wall-O-Water and cover with Agribon fabric for additional protection against the freezing temperatures at night. 

The payoff of course is, we’ll have a nice crop to harvest starting in July.  Then we’ll continue to reap the benefits until the first frost hits.  That’s when all tomatoes, even all green ones and mid-ripened ones must be picked and preserved. Tomatoes will not survive a frost. 

If you want to start some seeds for early planting in your garden, here are a few tips on starting seeds now: 

·     Up here, there’s no such thing as growing tomatoes from sowing seeds in the ground.  (That was my first mistake when I moved here 10 years ago and before joining WMCG.)  If you want to grow tomatoes, start the seeds indoors or buy the plants at a garden center. 

·     BIG TIP:  Check seed packets for the number of days until harvest to be sure your choices will mature at the best time for harvest. 

·     Start with good containers for starting seeds.  Go ahead and purchase seed starting kits that are not expensive and can be used from year to year.  The Return on Investment will pay off in following years.  Purchase larger pots to accommodate the seedlings once the roots are established, true leaves are developing and it’s obvious the plants need more room to grow. 

·     Use new potting soil.  DO NOT use garden soil or old potting soil from last year’s plants.  There is a danger of transferring diseases or molds.  Start with a fresh bag of seed starting soil that is clean and sterile.   ALSO:  Clean the seed trays for next year with bleach in order to keep them disinfected for the new year of starting seeds. 

·     Follow seed packet instructions for best results.  Soak large seeds such as beans, peas, okra in water over night before planting.  This gives germination a boost. 

Place the seed starting tray in an area that receives light but at this point, the seeds need warmth more than they need light.  It’s not imperative to purchase a heat mat for seedlings but it provides convenience.  Plants will mature faster with warmth. 


Planted seeds on Day 1 and Day 14.  

Follow the instructions on the seed packets.  

Seed starting trays, heat mat, seed selection.  

Use new, sterile soil for starting seeds.  You can even start seeds in a clamshell food container from the grocery store or a take out container from a restaurant.  It's an economical way to start seeds.  

Check your Last and First Frost Dates.