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Wed, May 22

Guidelines for planting seeds and plants

There are some basic rules to consider when planting seeds in your garden. Perhaps the best advice is that straight rows allow for greater ease in cultivation, harvesting and controlling insects. With small seeds, create a shallow trench. Allow the correct amount of space between rows relative to the mature plant size.

Read your seed package to learn how to space your seeds. Some people like to mix small seeds with sand and then spread to avoid planting too thickly. To aid in seeing how the seeds are spaced, one can spread a layer of toilet paper on the soil before spreading the seeds.

Place the seed at a depth approximately two to four times the seed diameter. Tiny seeds such as carrots can be covered with a quarter-inch of soil. Large seeds such as corn and beans can be planted approximately one inch deep.

Cover the seeds with soil and gently press with your hand or flat part of a hoe. Moisten the soil gently. Water with the aim of preventing crusting of the soil but providing enough moisture for germination. Water deeper but less frequently once plants emerge.

Early thinning of your plants is important. Be aware of the remaining plants and disturb them as little as possible. Early thinning of your plants is important. Be aware not to disturb the remaining plants. After covering the roots, use your hands or the back of a hoe to gently firm the soil around the plant. Protect your plants for a few days with a cover of some kind to prevent stress from the sun, wind or cold.

Transplanting is another important task for successful gardening. The best timing is on a cloudy day or in the evening. Always water the plants in the containers about one hour prior to transplanting. When removing, take care NOT to disturb the roots any more than necessary. Keeping a ball of soil around the roots will keep them moist. Place the plant in a prepared hole slightly deeper than in the container, always ensuring that you are not planting deeper than original growth.

Pour approximately a cup of starter fertilizer solution around the roots of each plant. Prepare a solution of diluted fertilizer.

ALWAYS follow the manufacturer's instructions. Chemical and organic fertilizers show their nutrient content with three numbers representing nitrogen, phosphorus and potash (potassium), often represented by N-P-K. The numbers listed relate to the percentage of each material in the particular fertilizer.

Nitrogen helps plant foliage to grow strong. Phosphorous helps roots and flowers grow and develop. Potassium (potash) is important for overall plant health.

A fertilizer high in phosphorus is recommended, such 10-18-6. High phosphorus fertilizer should be used when plants are being established in your garden.

Compost and seasoned manure are superb sources of all plant nutrients and a very effective substitute for chemical fertilizers. Fish meal, bone meal, alfalfa meal, bat guano and earthworm castings also are excellent plant nutrient sources.

Watch for information on the Master Gardeners June workshop on garden pests.

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