With January in the rear view mirror and February going fast, now is the time to plan your flower and vegetable gardens. Growing a garden from seed requires proper planning to ensure that your garden looks beautiful and produces tons of fruit or flowers.

tomato plants

What to Grow?
The first step is to decide what you want to grow. For the sake of this blog, let’s look at vegetables.  Veggies are really an object of pride, so getting them off to a good start is important.

I usually start by thinking about what my family enjoys eating. It makes no sense to plant and nurture veggies that will no one will eat. At the same time also think about the number of plants in relation to your space. If you have a 4’ x 4’ space, we have to be realistic in what is going to fit properly.  Take tomatoes for example, depending on variety, my experience has been to give them as much space in the garden as possible. Three or four feet between tomato plants is optimum for plant growth and health.

It’s Time to Start Seeds
Ok, so now that we know what plants we want to grow and how many we can fit in the space we have – it’s time to start seeds. Here at Hicks we have an awesome seed selection available and staff that can give you some great advice. Keep in mind that the seed packs themselves are a wealth of information that will help you. Check the seed pack as to when to start your seeds indoors.

What You Need
A seed starting kit is the best way to go in my opinion. It provides a tray that holds water, planting cubes and a clear top to create a greenhouse effect that will keep the seeds warm and help them to germinate. A bag of seed starting soil will also be needed. I like Espoma seed starter because it is a light mix that promotes root development.

How to Start Seeds
Fill your planting cubes with soil, then check the seed pack to see how deep to plant your seeds. I usually do two seeds per cube and remove one plant later.  Once you’ve planted all of your cubes moisten the soil with a mister or small watering can. Place the clear top on the seed tray to help keep the seeds warm and moist and move the tray to a sunny window. A tip I have used for years is to set up a small fan to keep the air around the seed tray moving. This helps to prevent disease. When the seeds start to show some growth, remove the clear top so that the plants can grow a bit slower and become stout instead of “stretched”. Rotating the tray at regular intervals will also keep the seedlings from leaning into the light and grow straight.As your seedlings grow keep the soil lightly moist by using a mister bottle but also let the soil surface dry out between watering.

When to Fertilize
Once the seeds germinate and show some growth it is time to use a liquid fertilizer. Fish emulsion fertilizer is a great option. It’s an organic and mild method of feeding seedlings and getting them off to a great start. And it does not have an odor.

At this point you should be aware of when you can set these plants out in the garden. Here we use Mother’s Day as bench mark of when to put out summer veggies. By then usually any chance of frost is past.  So 10 days before planting I like to take the seedlings outdoors to a protected, partly shaded and wind free spot for a few hours daily and then bring them in at night. In this fashion the seedlings will be “hardened off” and ready to be planted in the garden.

From seed to harvest!! You’ve done it … enjoy.!!  

Additional Information:
How to Successfully Grow Vegetables
Growing Figs on Long Island