Starting transplants from seeds in your home is a good way to get a head start on the growing season. At least 4 to 8 weeks can be cut from the time required between planting and harvesting or of getting effective landscape color by setting vigorous transplants rather than seeds into the garden. Growing your own plants may be the only way to obtain a new or special variety you want.

Growing Media

Use of a loose, fertile, disease-free soil mix is a basic key to success.

Premixed, soilless material can be bought in nurseries and stores. Soilless mixes are more expensive than the home mix but can be used right from the bag without pasteurization. These mixes are economical when used carefully. The following soilless mix can be prepared at home if the ingredients are available in a local nursery or through a catalog.

1/2 bushel horticultural perlite, vermiculite, calcined clay, or humus 1/2 bushel coarse sphagnum peat moss or shredded pine bark 3 ounces 20 percent superphosphate 6 ounces dolomitic limestone or ground limestone 3 ounces complete fertilizer as 8-8-8 or 12-12-12 Containers

Any shallow wood, metal or plastic container at least 3 inches deep makes a suitable plant growing box. Milk cartons, foam cups, peat pots, and egg cartons make nice individual plant containers. Punch holes in the bottom of any carton, cup or pan to allow water to drain from the soil.

Seedlings

Seedlings are ready to transplant when they have the first set of true leaves.

Soil temperature is important. Warm the soil to about 75° if possible until seedlings have emerged above the soil surface.

Cover the seed only enough to make it disappear from view. The seed packet usually gives correct planting depth. Place containers in plastic bags or cover the soil surface with plastic film until the first sign of seeding emergence. Then remove the plastic cover to give maximum exposure to light.

Transplanting -Begin transplanting when the first true leaves are forming, usually 2 to 3 weeks after sowing.

Spacing- Wider spacing or larger containers permit stronger growth. As a rule of thumb, to produce high quality plants, space them so that the leaves of one plant do not touch those of another.

Watering - Add water to soilless media only when moisture can no longer be squeezed out by pinching the medium between the thumb and forefinger

Fertilizing - After seedling emergence carefully prepare a soluble fertilizer which is specifically designed for plant production.

Erath County Livestock Show

Congratulations to all of the participants of the Erath County Livestock Show. I really enjoy seeing our youth involved in production agriculture. Our youth today will be feeding our growing population in the future. Great Job!

I greatly appreciate our showboard and community sponsors. Without the volunteer hours and donations, the county show would not be possible. Thanks for giving our youth an opportunity to learn as they grow into young adults.

Lonnie Jenschke is an Erath County extension agent. His column is published weekly and online at yourstephenvilletx.com.