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The Simple Act of Starting a Seed

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By Carl Wilson, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension agent, horticulture, Denver County

Why not renew your spirit by sowing seeds indoors? For an extra kick, consider a seed-starting project with a child.

Nurturing a plant helps children learn to nurture themselves while teaching responsibility through plant care and building self-esteem through accomplishment. I am a believer after seeing how children benefit from this experience by growing plants in our Denver Public Schools classrooms.

March is the time to plant seeds of the warm season vegetables and annual herbs you want to transplant outside in late May. It takes six to eight weeks to grow a good transplant. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, cilantro, and sweet basil are good candidates for starting immediately.

Whatever container you decide to use, it must have drainage holes in the bottom. A waxed paper milk carton or cup make good plant pots after holes are cut into the bottom. Fill the pot with potting soil leaving room for one-half inch of vermiculite on top. Vermiculite is a lightweight, expanded clay material sold for both plant growing and use as house insulation. Both potting soil and plant growing grade vermiculite can be purchased from nurseries and garden centers as well as some grocery stores.

Sow small seeds on top and large seeds down in the vermiculite. USDA research shows the vermiculite topping prevents rotting of seedlings at the soil line, a condition gardeners call damping off. Cover the seeds with plastic wrap until they germinate, then remove and water only when the vermiculite and soil feel dry to the finger. Remember that overwatering is the chief hazard to seedlings.

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010