Starting your garden inside now will pay off later
I am hopeful that this last cold, rainy weekend will be the last one. It's time to get ready to plant. Yes, we needed the rain and I always enjoy it, but it's time for the soils to warm up so we can plant.
Hopefully, you have added a layer of mulch to your gardening area and dug it under at least 12 inches.This not only adds nutrients to the soil, but it can help the soil temperature rise. Seeds require different soil temperatures to germinate.
When the soil temperature reaches 32 degrees, spinach, onions and parsnip seeds will germinate; 40 degrees - radishes, carrots, beets, peas and cabbage will germinate; 50 degrees - asparagus, corn and tomatoes will germinate; and 60 degrees - squash, cucumbers, beans, peppers and melons will germinate.
If you do not have a soil thermometer, you can use a cooking thermometer. One that says rare, medium and well done will not work. Look for a numerical or digital one with a low reading of at least 30 degrees. The high reading is insignificant, as we are hoping the soil temperature never reaches 220 degrees.
To check the accuracy of a thermometer, place the thermometer tip in a pan of boiling water. The average boiling point of water in the Kingman area is 190 degrees. Most thermometers can be adjusted if necessary.
Unfortunately, the outdoor soil temperatures are not warm enough to germinate our favorite vegetables and fruits. So, why not start them in the house? By the time the soil temperatures are sufficient for growing, you will already have established plants.
Purchase a good quality potting soil. When purchasing potting soil, look for ingredients such as sphagnum peat moss; processed chicken manure; bat guano; vermiculite or perlite; cheated iron; kelp meal; and even time-released fertilizer.
I am not advocating you buy the most expensive potting soils available, but I do caution you about buying the least expensive. As I mentioned in a previous article, all potting soils are not created equally. Moisten the soil and bring it in the house for at least 24 hours before planting. This will bring your potting mixture to room temperature for faster germination.
Paper towel or toilet paper tubes make great seed-starting containers, as they will biodegrade and will not disturb tiny roots when you transplant. Cut the paper towel tube in thirds, or use a whole toilet paper tube. Hold the tube in one hand and push the soil into the tube with the other. Pack the soil firmly and tap it gently until the tube is 90-percent full.
Stand the tubes upright in any container - i.e. plastic butter tube, ice cream container - making sure some air can circulate between the tubes.
Get your favorite squash, cucumber, pepper, tomato or other vegetable seeds and carefully plant one seed in each tube. Place the seed and push it into the soil with a pencil. Read the seed package for the appropriate depth.
Water lightly with a diluted, half-strength, liquid fertilizer, and place in a window that receives at least four hours of sun daily. Check the tubes daily for moisture. Keep them moist but not saturated. There should not be standing water in the bottom of the container.
By the time the outdoor soil temperature is warm enough to accommodate planting, you will already have established plants. Get the young plants acclimated by taking them outdoors, placing in partial sun during the day, and bring them back in at night. Do this for two or three days, then the fourth day leave them outside. Then plant them.
Prepare your planting area, whether it is in the ground or a larger container, make a hole large enough to accommodate the entire tube, insert the tube until it is completely buried and firmly pack the soil around it.
You will probably notice the tiny roots that have already started to grow through the tube. The tube itself will decompose in the soil, so there is no need to remove it.
This method does not work well for smaller seeds like carrots, lettuce and radishes. But it does work well on tomatoes, squash, peppers and melons.
Jumpstart your planting, buy a package of your favorite seeds, share them or save the extra for next year.