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Archive | Spring Spruce Up

Ease into gardening with a raised bed 

Raised bed gardens with benches make it easier to plant, maintain and harvest. Photo credit: Bonnie Plants  

Raised bed gardens with benches make it easier to plant, maintain and harvest. Photo credit: Bonnie Plants

By Melinda Myers  

Raise your garden to new heights for easier access and greater productivity. Raised beds allow you to overcome poor soil by creating the ideal growing mix, plus make gardening time more comfortable thanks to less bending and kneeling.

Whether you purchase a kit or build your own, there are a few things to consider when creating a raised bed garden.

Locate the garden in a sunny area if possible. Most plants require at least six hours of sun, and vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and melons produce best with a full day of sunlight.

Select a long-lasting material such as interlocking block, fieldstone, plastic lumber or naturally long lasting wood like cedar. The material selected will influence the shape and size of your garden. Some materials allow for curved beds while others are limited to squares, rectangles and other angular shapes.

Design your raised bed to fit your space and your needs. A three- or four-feet width makes it easy to reach all parts of the garden for planting, weeding and harvesting. Raising your planting bed at least 8 to 12 inches improves drainage and provides an adequate space for most plants to root and grow. If you want to minimize bending, go higher. Add benches to increase your gardening comfort and ease. Bonnie Plants has free downloadable plans (bonnieplants.com/library) for building a raised bed garden with benches in just one afternoon.

Roughen or loosen the existing soil surface if your bed is built on compact, slow-draining soil. This will allow water to readily move from the raised bed into the soil below. Cover the bottom of the bed with newspaper or cardboard, if needed, to suffocate existing weeds and grass.

Line the bottom of your raised bed with hardware cloth to reduce the risk of animals burrowing into your garden. Lay the hardware cloth over the ground and bend it up along the inside of the raised bed walls.

Fill the bed with a quality growing mix that is well drained but also able to retain moisture and nutrients. This may be a mixture of quality topsoil and compost, a high quality potting mix, or a planting mix designed specifically for raised bed gardens.

Grow any plants that you normally would grow in ground. Just make sure the plants are suited to the growing conditions (such as sunlight, heat and wind) in your area. Since the soil mix and drainage is ideal in a raised garden, you will be able to grow more plants per square foot. Just be sure to leave sufficient room for plants to reach their mature size.

Keep your plants healthy and productive with proper watering. This is critical for growing any garden, but even more crucial in a fast-draining raised bed. The simple act of raising the garden height increases drainage, and a raised bed filled with planting mix means more frequent watering. Consider using drip irrigation or soaker hoses for watering ease. Always water thoroughly when the top inch of soil is dry.

Add some mulch to help reduce watering and the need for other garden maintenance. Spread a layer of evergreen needles, pine straw, shredded leaves or other organic matter over the soil surface. This helps conserve moisture, suppresses weeds and adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. You’ll spend less time watering and weeding throughout the season.

Add an organic fertilizer at planting if your planting mix does not already contain one. Apply again mid-season if the plants need a nutrient boost. Always follow the label directions on the fertilizer container.

The time and effort invested in creating raised beds will be returned many times over with years of healthy and productive gardens.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is also a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Bonnie Plants for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ website is www.melindamyers.com

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Know what’s below before you dig this spring

It’s important to find out where utility lines are before you begin a yard renovation project.

It’s important to find out where utility lines are before you begin a yard renovation project.

(BPT) – With the snow gone and the ground thawed, many eager homeowners and landscape professionals across the country are rolling up their sleeves and reaching for their shovels to start projects that require digging this spring.

During the transition into “digging season,” Common Ground Alliance (CGA), the association dedicated to protecting underground utilities and the people who dig near them, reminds homeowners and professional diggers that calling 811 is the first step towards protecting you and your community from the risk of unintentionally damaging an underground line.

Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a free call to 811. Installing a mailbox or fence, building a deck and landscaping are all examples of digging projects that should only begin a few days after making a call to 811. Calling this number connects you to your local one call utility notification center.

According to data collected by CGA in a phone survey in late February, more than half (46 percent) of American homeowners said they plan to do DIY projects involving digging this year, but 40 percent of them do not plan to make a free call to 811 before digging. Extrapolated to the full population of U.S. homeowners, approximately 51.8 million people will dig this year without first calling 811.

A utility line is damaged every six minutes in America because someone decided to dig without making a call to 811 to learn the approximate location of buried utilities in their area. Unintentionally striking one of these lines can result in inconvenient outages for entire neighborhoods, harm to yourself or your neighbors and repair costs.

As a result, CGA offers the following tips to make sure you complete your project safely and without any utility service interruptions, so you don’t become a statistic.

Here’s how the 811 process works:

1. One free, simple phone call to 811 makes it easy for your local one call center to notify all appropriate utility companies of your intent to dig. Call a few days prior to digging to ensure enough time for the approximate location of utility lines to be marked with flags or paint.

2. When you call 811, a representative from your local one call center will ask for the location and description of your digging project.

3. Your local one-call center will notify affected utility companies, which will then send professional locators to the proposed dig site to mark the approximate location of your lines.

4. Only once all lines have been accurately marked, roll up those sleeves and carefully dig around the marked areas.

There are nearly 19 million miles of underground utility lines in the United States that your family depends on for everyday needs including electric, gas, water and sewer, cable TV, high-speed Internet and landline telephone. That equals more than a football field’s length of utilities for every person in the United States. With that much critical infrastructure underground, it’s important to know what’s below and call 811 before digging.

To find out more information about 811 or the one call utility notification center in your area, visit call811.com.

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Simple seasonal tips to keep plumbing operating smoothly

PHOTO CREDIT: (c) corbis_fancy - Fotolia.com

PHOTO CREDIT: (c) corbis_fancy – Fotolia.com

(StatePoint) – Proper seasonal maintenance can keep your plumbing running smoothly. Experts say that even those with no experience can inspect for issues and perform simple tasks to prevent costly repairs.

“You don’t have to be a crackerjack plumber to handle basics and protect your home,” says Jeff Devlin, host on HGTV and DIY Networks.

Devlin offers homeowners some key plumbing tips:

Kitchens and Bathrooms

Ensure drains have strainers to prevent debris from clogging drain lines. Check faucets for drips and leaks.

Inspect the toilet tank and bowl for visible cracks. Check for hidden leaks by adding six drops of food coloring to the tank. If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within 30 minutes.

Ensure toilets flush properly. If the handle must be held down to flush, or jiggled to stop water from running, you may need to replace parts.

Clean mineral deposits from the shower head. Unscrew it and soak in vinegar overnight. Then gently scrub with an old toothbrush.

Water Heater

Carefully drain several gallons from the tank to flush out corrosion-causing sediment, which reduces heating efficiency and shortens the life of the heater. Consider replacing those older than 15 years with a new, energy-efficient model.

Appliances

Check your dishwasher, washing machine and ice maker’s supply hoses for bulges or leaks. Replace hoses showing signs of weakness or those older than ten years. Use stainless steel hoses, which are more reliable and less prone to bursting.

Clean your washing machine lint trap, and place a wire trap or a piece of pantyhose over the end of the hose that drains the washer.

General

Pour water into infrequently used drains to fill traps and prevent odors. Slow floor drains should be snaked to ensure they’ll carry water away during flooding.

Take a reading on your water meter before bedtime. The next morning, without using any water overnight, take another reading. If it’s changed, you have a leak that should be repaired.

Outside

Free yard drains, gutters and downspouts of debris. Check for bird nests in plumbing vent pipes. Check faucets and hose bibs to ensure water flows freely. If an outdoor faucet drips, or if there is leakage inside your home the first time the hose is turned on, you may have had a frozen pipe that cracked and needs to be replaced.

Be Equipped

Look for commercial-quality products designed with average consumers in mind. For example, Roto-Rooter, the number one brand in plumbing, with 80 years of experience, now offers a complete line of consumer products that contain 25 percent more active ingredients and clear clogs 50 percent faster than the competition.

“It’s stronger and faster which means you can get the job done right the first time,” says Devlin.

Devlin, who lives in an historic farmhouse, recommends the brand’s Septic Treatment, which contains twice the amount of enzymes to keep septic tanks in balance. More information about the product line can be found at rotorooter-products.com.

“Be proactive,” says Devlin. “A few minutes of prevention could save you tens of thousands of dollars in costly repairs.”

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The Cedar Springs Post welcomes letters of up to 350 words. The subject should be relevant to local readers, and the editor reserves the right to reject letters or edit for clarity, length, good taste, accuracy, and liability concerns. All submissions MUST be accompanied by full name, mailing address and daytime phone number. We use this information to verify the letter’s authenticity. We do not print anonymous letters, or acknowledge letters we do not use. Writers are limited to one letter per month. Email to news@cedarspringspost.com, or send to PostScripts, Cedar Springs Post, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319.


 

Education is proactive

Laura VanDuyn, our Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent’s message to us in The Post of April 14 was filled with good news about our improving educational program for our youth.

An extended study of change in business and industry years ago showed production improved with each change in work environment, leveled off, and eventually decreased. I think it was called the Hawthorn effect.

Education is a proactive thing. It’s good that the program we offer our children is proactive.

Lyle Perry Jr.

Cedar Springs

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Five essential spring home improvement projects

SPR-Five-essential-home-improvement-projects

(BPT) – The arrival of spring means new beginnings and a fresh chance to tackle those home improvement projects you’ve been putting off for the last several months. Get your home ready for summer and make it more beautiful, efficient and functional than ever with these five seasonal projects.

  1. Keep, donate or trash. Your first step is to declutter the home. Separate items into three categories: keep, donate or trash. Here’s a tip: if you haven’t used something in the last year, chances are you can get rid of it. Items such as unwanted electronics, housewares and gently used clothing can be donated to charity. For everything else, check with your local recycling program before putting anything in the garbage.
  2. Get serious about spring cleaning. Give your home a fresh start by wiping down windows, countertops, electronics, appliances, doorknobs, furniture, light fixtures and ceiling fans. Also, be sure to mop floors and vacuum carpet. Never cleaned windows before? Find out how with our free guide.
  3. Bring your deck back to life. We think winter is hard on us, but just imagine how hard it is on our decks, which weather the bitter cold temperatures, snow and ice all season long. Take a close look at your deck and check for warped, loose or splintered boards. Sweep away anything that may have fallen between the cracks, make any needed repairs, scrub or power wash, and restain if necessary.
  4. Do a color refresh. Whether you’re adding a fresh coat of paint to your interior or exterior walls, or completely changing the colors of your home, spring is the perfect time to renew your home’s look. One 2016 color trend: bold entry doors like those from Pella. And pick out your new, colorful front door.
  5. Bloom where you are planted. Whether you are a homeowner, renter or sublessee, celebrate the end of winter by creating spaces for bright flowers and making the most of your garden. Apartment dwellers, bring the outdoors in with hanging baskets, potted plants or herbs.

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Create a garden anywhere with straw bales

Photo by: Melinda Myers, LLC
 Create a planting bed for seeds by covering the straw bale with a one to two-inch layer of planting mix.

Photo by: Melinda Myers, LLC

Create a planting bed for seeds by covering the straw bale with a one to two-inch layer of planting mix.

By Melinda Myers

Add productive garden space and raise your planting bed with straw bale gardening. This technique allows gardeners to create raised bed gardens on a patio, lawn or any area with poor compacted soil. Straw bale gardening has been around for centuries, but thanks to Joel Karsten’s book “Straw Bale Gardens” it has gained new popularity.

All that is needed are a few straw bales, fertilizer, a bit of compost and time to condition, plant and water the garden.

Be sure to purchase straw bales made from alfalfa, wheat, oats, rye or other cereal grain that have less weed seeds than hay. Start a few weeks before the designated planting date.

Place the bales in their permanent location with the cut sides up and twine parallel to the ground. Once you start the condition process, the bales will be very heavy and hard to move. When the bales are in place you are ready to start the conditioning process. This is done to start the inside of the straw bales composting, so they’ll support plant growth.

On day one, spread fertilizer over the top of the bale.  Use a ½ cup of a complete garden fertilizer or three cups of an organic fertilizer like Milorganite (milorganite.com). Then completely moisten the bale. The organic fertilizers feed the microorganisms that help decompose the straw into a nutrient rich planting medium.

Thoroughly soak the bale everyday. On days three and five you will add more fertilizer at the same rate used on day one.

Days seven through nine use half the rate used on day one. This would be ¼ cup of a complete garden fertilizer or 1 ½ cups of an organic fertilizer. Thoroughly water the bale each time.

On day ten you will add one cup of 10-10-10 or three cups of an organic fertilizer rich in phosphorous and potassium.  This completes the conditioning process.

Bales treated with a complete fertilizer should be ready to plant. You may need to wait a few more days when using an organic fertilizer. The inside of the bale should be the temperature of warm bath water or cooler for planting. If it is hotter than this, wait for the bale to cool a bit before you plant.

Use a trowel to pry open a hole in the bale. Place the plant in the hole and cover the roots with potting mix or compost.

Create a planting bed for seeds by covering the bale with a one- to two-inch thick layer of planting mix. Follow the planting directions on the back of the seed packet.

Regular watering is critical for success with this method. Soaker hoses or drip irrigation make this an easier task. You can also use gallon milk jugs with holes in the bottom or inverted two-liter soda bottles placed near the base of each plant to provide water where it is needed.

Give your straw bale garden a nutrient boost about once a month or as needed throughout the growing season.

Follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to growing a productive straw bale garden to enjoy throughout the season.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and spokesperson for Milorganite. Myers’ website is www.melindamyers.com.

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Five tips to remove the pain from painting

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Family Features

If painting is on your list of home upgrades to tackle this year, you may find yourself procrastinating to avoid a painful process. However, with the right tools and a little preparation, you can achieve the new look you want and a finished product that makes you proud.

Before you get started, take inventory of your painting supplies and ensure you have plenty of brushes (including extras, if you’ll have help), paint trays, masking tape, clean-up rags and drop cloths to protect your floor or furniture. Make a list of any items you need to purchase, and before you head to the store, measure your space one last time to ensure you know how much paint you need to buy.

Follow these additional tips for a painting project that delivers a big home improvement gain without the pain:

  1. Lights on, lights off. Think about lighting when choosing your paint. It is easy to pick a color solely based on a photo or swatch, but it is important to think about your specific room and how the lighting may affect the color’s appearance. What is the natural light like? Will you still like the color once the sun goes down?
  2. Timing is everything. Prime painting season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. One important reason is that when the weather is nice, you can open up the windows and get some circulation running through the room for faster drying times and better air quality.
  3. Prepare for everything. Before you begin painting, protect surfaces and ensure sharp lines by masking off your painting area. Pull off a better paint job with new ScotchBlue Platinum Painter’s Tape, which tears by hand at a straight, 90-degree angle for fast cornering. The tape is made from advanced poly material that helps prevent paint seepage and removes in one piece without tearing or slivering.
  4. Make it fun. Get the whole family involved in the project. Having kids take part will help give them a sense of ownership and responsibility for the family home, and make the end result more personal.
  5. Revel in the results. Putting in the legwork in advance will pay off when you get the freshly painted look you want, and you’ll want to celebrate the accomplishment. Make sure to take before and after photos to show off your hard work.

Find more tips to pull off a better paint job at scotchblue.com.

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Spring cleanups start soon

 

By Judy Reed

As the weather warms up and residents begin to spring clean, some municipalities are offering drop off sites to help get rid of the clutter. Check out the list below to see when it’s offered in your area.

Algoma Township: Spring cleanup days are Thursday, May 5, through Saturday, May 7. Dumpsters will be available at the township hall at 10531 Algoma Ave. Hours will be Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30  p.m. No liquids, no hazardous waste (no paint, oil, fuel, gasoline etc.) No brush or yard waste, no cement.

All tires must be cut in half for free disposal. Whole tires will be charged $10 each. Propane and fuel oil tanks must be cut in half. Fencing must be folded or rolled up. Barrels must have one end open or be full of holes. Mattress and box springs $15 per item.

Will also collect E-Waste at the same location. PCs, Laptops, Servers, Printers, Copiers, Scanners, LCD Screens, Plasma, LED & Flat Screens, Network/Telecom Equipment, other misc. electronics (wires, keyboards, mice, AV). Items not accepted include Items with refrigerant or batteries. CR-TVs and Monitors will NOT be collected. However, Kent County does collect these items for a fee.  Visit www.accesskent.com/Departments/DPW/north_kent.htm for more information.

Call the township for more info 866-1583.

City of Cedar Springs: The annual brush pickup already took place on Monday, April 4. There is no longer a spring trash cleanup date. Check with your waste hauler for pickup.

Courtland Township: Spring cleanup dates are May 20 and 21.

Dumpsters will be available for Spring cleanup on May 20 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and May 21 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Courtland Twp. Hall, 7450 14-Mile Rd,  Rockford.

Items accepted include: batteries, mattresses, tires if cut up into 3 or more pieces, paint (only if solidified). Appliances must have freon removed.

Contact the Township hall for additional information. Public must be able to unload; questionable large items are subject to rejection. Call the Township hall at 866-0622.

Nelson Township/Sand Lake: Spring cleanup is scheduled for Saturday, May 21, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 5th and Cherry Streets, near the water tower in Sand Lake. Identification required. Please present a tax bill or voter’s registration card and driver’s license. We accept appliances, sheet metal, auto parts and engines (liquid drained), aluminum and copper wire, fencing (flattened and folded), mattresses, furniture, carpeting, clothing, glass, etc. No garbage please. No hazardous or toxic waste. No yard clippings or brush. No shovel offs of shingles and drywall. Also will collect e-waste items such as computers, phones, tools, small appliances, and most anything with a cord or that runs on batteries. Comprenew no longer takes TVs or Computer monitors free of charge. Prices range from $7 or $8 for a 14 or 15 inch, up to $50 for a 42 inch, including projection. Checks only, made out to Comprenew. For more information on what is permitted, or for pricing on e-waste, contact the township at 636-5332 or check their winter/spring 2015  newsletter at www.nelsontownship.org.

One trailer/truck load per residence, no shovel-offs. Loose items must be boxed/bagged.

Sand Lake: See Nelson Township (above) for regular spring cleanup.

Solon Township: Spring cleanup dates have been set for two consecutive Saturdays, May 7 and May 14, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at 15185 Algoma. One 5×8 trailer with 48-inch sides or one pickup box per household. All items should be boxed or bagged, 45 pounds maximum. Tires must be cut in four pieces, car or light truck only, limit four. Appliances such as washers, dryers, etc. will be accepted, but not appliances that used Freon or other toxic chemicals. Call township for more info at 696-1718.

Spencer Township: Spring cleanup is Saturday, June 25, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dumpsters will be available at the township fire department, at the corner of Meddler and 18 Mile Road. Residents will be required to show proof residency. Tax bill, voter registration, or Spencer Township address on driver’s license. No shovel offs or loose trash accepted. Bag it, barrel it, or don’t bring it! All tires must be cut in half, propane and fuel oil tanks must be cut in half. Fencing must be folded or rolled up. Barrels must have one end open or be full of holes. Will accept freezers, air conditioners, washers dish washers, refrigerators, humidifiers, dryers, batteries at no charge. Mattresses and box springs accepted at $15 each.

No liquids, no hazardous waste (no paint, oil, fuel, gasoline etc.) No brush or yard waste, no cement, no shingles.

Recyclables must be taken to a recycle station at either Kent County Landfill on 10 Mile Rd, Rockford, or Pierson Landfill.

Call township for info at 984-0035.

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Extend the garden season with spring planted bulbs

Calla lilies, like ‘Night Cap’ with its black flowers and the white blooms of ‘Crystal Clear,’ are spring planted bulbs that thrive in full sun or part shade and can be cut to create an elegant display indoors. Photo credit: Longfield Gardens

Calla lilies, like ‘Night Cap’ with its black flowers and the white blooms of ‘Crystal Clear,’ are spring planted bulbs that thrive in full sun or part shade and can be cut to create an elegant display indoors. Photo credit: Longfield Gardens

By Melinda Myers

Keeping your garden looking its best throughout the growing season and into fall is possible with the help of low maintenance spring planted bulbs.  Plant them in spring among other annuals or perennials and watch as these bulbs brighten the garden, adding new life to your late season gardens.

Whether your gardens and containers are in full sun or shade you’ll enjoy the attractive foliage and pop of color that dahlias, cannas, calla lilies, caladiums and elephant ears will add to the landscape.

These easy care plants reward you with loads of beauty. Just plant, water and enjoy. Quality online retailers like Longfield Gardens (longfield-gardens.com) offer the greatest variety of color, shapes and sizes as well as planting and care instructions.

Grow dahlias in sunny areas with at least six hours of sunlight for the best floral display. Simply plant the tuberous roots four to six inches deep with the stem facing up after the danger of frost has passed.

Use dahlias in a cutting garden or as an attractive screen along fences and property lines. Use the shorter more compact border dahlias, like “Gallery Pablo” in containers on your patio, balcony or deck where you and the hummingbirds will enjoy their blooms.

Wait until the danger of frost has passed to plant cannas in a full sun to partially shaded locations. Plant the canna rhizomes horizontally two to three inches deep with the growing point facing up. Take advantage of their bold foliage and use cannas as a backdrop in the flower border or screen in the landscape. Use as a vertical accent in a large container or select dwarf varieties for smaller pots. 

Calla lilies are another spring planted bulb that thrives in full sun or part shade. The speckled foliage adds color to the garden all season long. Include these one- to two- feet-tall plants in the front or middle of the flower garden or as a vertical accent or filler in a pot. And don’t forget to cut a few flowers to enjoy indoors.  The black flowers of “Night Cap” teamed with the white blooms of “Crystal Clear” create an elegant display.

Like the other bulbs, wait for the danger of frost to pass before planting them outdoors. Plant the knobby rhizomes two to four inches deep with the growing point facing up.

Add some color and plenty of wow factor to shaded areas with the foliage of caladiums and elephant ears. These tropical beauties thrive when soil and air temperatures are warm. Wait for the danger of frost to pass and the soil to warm, 65 to 70 degrees, before planting them in the garden.

Use caladiums to brighten containers, dress up window boxes or edge a shady pathway. The colorful leaves stand out amongst the greens of shade gardens. Team variegated varieties with complimentary colored begonias, coleus or impatiens.

Include elephant ears in the garden or containers. Their large heart shaped leaves give a tropical feel to the patio, deck or pool area. Consider planting one, two or more to create an impressive welcome for guests or a bold statement in the landscape. They pair nicely with caladiums, coleus and other shade loving plants.

Make this the best season yet with the help of spring flowering bulbs. You’ll enjoy the variety and late season color these easy care plants provide.
Melinda Myers has over 30 years of gardening experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Longfield Gardens for her expertise to write this article.  

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Simple steps to seed starting success

Gardening expert Melinda Myers

Gardening expert Melinda Myers

By Melinda Myers

Get a jump on the growing season by starting your favorite or hard to find plants indoors from seeds. Starting hard to find plants, like many of the heirloom or newly introduced varieties, from seed may be the only way you will be able to add these to your garden. Plus, you’ll be extending the growing season and bringing the fun of gardening indoors.

All you need is a little space, a few supplies and, of course, seeds to get started. Check the back of your seed packets for planting directions. Most recommend when and how to start seeds indoors, as well as any other special care the seedlings will need.

Purchase, recycle or make your own containers from newspaper. Sanitize used pots by dipping them in a one part bleach and nine parts water solution and then rinsing them with clean water.

Fill the containers with a sterile well-drained potting mix or seed starting mix. Once the containers are filled, plant the seeds according to the seed packet directions.

Increase success and encourage even growth by growing seedlings under artificial lights.

Increase success and encourage even growth by growing seedlings under artificial lights.

For most seeds, plant them twice their diameter deep and gently water. Continue to water often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. Extend the time between watering and increase your seed starting success by covering the container with plastic. Or purchase a seed starting kit, like the self-watering Growease seed starter kits.

Move your containers to a sunny window as soon as the seedlings emerge from the soil. Turn plants often to encourage even growth. Or increase your success by growing seedlings under artificial lights. You can make your own light system or purchase tabletop, shelf units or easy to assemble light systems, like Stack-N-Grow (gardeners.com). Keep the lights four to six inches above the top of the seedlings for best results. As the seedlings grow, be sure to maintain this distance by simply raising the lights or lowering the containers.

Move overcrowded seedlings to larger containers once they have two sets of true leaves. The first leaves that appear are rather indistinct and are called seed leaves. The next set of leaves look more like the mature plant’s leaves and are called true leaves. Once the next set of true leaves forms, it is time to transplant overcrowded seedlings.

Use a fork or spoon to carefully lift out the seedling. Clusters of seedlings can be dug and carefully teased apart before planting in individual pots. Be careful not to pinch and damage the young tender stems.

Place seedlings in their own clean container filled with moist sterile potting mix. Plant the young plants at the same depth they were growing in the original container.

Thin seedlings started in individual containers as needed. If you planted several seeds in each small container remove all but the healthiest one. Prune the weaker seedlings to ground level, so the remaining seedling can develop into a strong transplant for the garden.

Continue to grow your plants in a sunny window or under artificial lights and water thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist.

Soon it will be time to move your homegrown transplants into the garden.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. Myers’ web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos and tips.

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