SPRING FEVER: It's time to plant those seeds
David Coveyou of Coveyou Scenic Farm Market seeds flats for his greenhouse. (Jamie Baumann/News-Review / March 13, 2013)
David Coveyou of Coveyou Scenic Farm Market says that mid-March is a good time to plant those vegetable seeds in indoor pots.
"Most people gardening at home with seed will start with tomatoes," Coveyou said.
"There has been more blight in the southern states," he said. "As a grower, I'd like to see more people growing from seed or staying local to help avoid spreading the blight."
As a novice starts to plant tomato seed, the first decision to make is the kind of tomato to plant.
Coveyou thinks heirloom tomatoes taste the best, but they are harder to grow in a garden. He recommends beefsteak and cherry tomatoes for the uninitiated. He explained that tomato seed packages will be marked as either "determinate" or "indeterminate." Determinate tomatoes don't need staking or caging, as they are bushy, shorter and grow closer to the ground. Determinate tomatoes bear fruit all at the same time, so they are a good choice for the person who wants to can.
Indeterminate tomatoes grow tall, needing staking or caging, but bear fruit over a long period of time with proper care. Cherry tomatoes are indeterminate. Beefsteak tomatoes can be found that are either determinate or indeterminate.
The gardener will need a seed pack and good seed potting soil. The seeds will need to be kept warm to germinate and then they will need plenty of light. "Tomato seedlings need to be in the light about 10 to 12 hours a day," Coveyou said. "This can be sunlight, or a daylight bulb."
When the seedling has four full leaves, it is ready to be planted in a bigger pot. When the stalk is 1/4 inch wide, the plant is ready to be transplanted to the garden.
"Tomato plants freeze easily, so it is important to wait until at least May, when the gardener is reasonably certain there will be no more frost, before planting outside," Coveyou said.
Container gardening -- gardening in pots usually kept on porches -- is becoming more popular. Tomatoes, peppers and leaf lettuce are popular container garden choices.
Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale are heartier than tomatoes and can withstand the cold better, so these can be transplanted outside earlier than tomatoes.
In early April, Coveyou is planning a "Hoe Down" informational session with presentations on potting soil, compost, and soil building for gardeners before they transplant their seeds into the ground. The Hoe Down will be at Coveyou Scenic Farm Market on U.S. 131 just south of Petoskey. For more information call (231) 347-0011.
Boyne City Farmers Market is hosting master gardener Cydney Steeb at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 16. She will discuss soil preparation and give tips on starting plants inside. The market, located in the red barn next to the Boyne District Library on Park Street, is also giving away free seed packets.