The sights, sounds, and smells of spring are finally here.  Oh, how welcome it is this year.  I never cease to marvel at the wonders of nature as the earth awakens after a long winter.  The crocus and daffodils begin to poke their heads through the cool soil and bloom with the first warm and sunny days of spring.  The birds are singing and soon will be nesting.  And gardeners are anxious to dig out their trowels and begin another new gardening season.

Many of you have already started some seed planting indoors to give your plants a head start.  Growing your own seedlings is fun and rather inexpensive.  It gives you a chance to try out some plants that might not be available at local nurseries as well as trying some of the many heirloom seeds that are now available.

It is important that you pay close attention to the conditions your seed will need in order to grow successfully.  This is usually noted on the back of the seed packet.  Some seeds need light to germinate and thus are sown directly on top of the soil.  Others may need darkness and will need to be planted an eighth of an inch deep or more, depending on the seed variety.  Some seedlings don’t tolerate transplanting very well, so it may be best to wait and plant these seeds outside when the garden soil is warmer in late spring.

Heat is a necessary component to ensure germination.  For most garden seeds, a soil temperature between 70-80 degrees F. will provide ideal germination conditions.

Adequate light is also necessary to ensure good growth.  You can provide this by using a florescent lighting system or else use an inside window ledge on the south side of your home.

Moisture is the third necessary ingredient for successful seed planting.  You have to be careful and find a fine balance between not having the soil too wet or too dry.  I like to use a plant mister to dampen the soil.  I usually cover the seeds with a clear lid after misting.  This is quite successful as it provides a mini greenhouse to get the seeds off to a good start.  Once the seedlings have emerged, I take the clear lid off the seed tray to allow for sufficient air circulation around the plants.  At this time I need to keep a careful watch on the increased moisture requirements of the growing seedling.

With more attention being focused on global climate change, gardeners can all do something to help our environment.  You might decide to expand your flower bed, or even try your hand at gardening for the first time.  Maybe you will plant a tree.  Whatever you do, it will help.

I recently heard that scientists have now found a cause for our declining bee population.  These little creatures, which are responsible for pollinating a sizeable portion of our food crops, simply can’t smell the flowers anymore.  We can all help improve our environment by being good stewards of the earth in our gardening efforts.

Until next time….happy gardening.

Nina Binkley

UW Extension Master Gardener Volunteer