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Choose seeds, bulbs, and transplants carefully

TAMMY PRICE

Spring is nearly here, and soon it will be time for the long-awaited garden shopping spree. In the excitement of finally getting out there and gardening, it’s easy to get caught up in impulse buying. More often than not, what looks like a great bargain in the store won’t prove to be a good buy in the garden. We put a lot of work into a garden, so starting out with quality seeds, bulbs, and transplants just makes sense. Before purchasing seeds, bulbs, and transplants, it’s important to have a plan. You’ll want to know what types of vegetables, flowering plants, and perennials do well at altitude. Your local nursery or garden center can give you a list of proven growers for our area, saving you the time, money, and energy that would be lost trying to grow plants that simply won’t work here. Once you know what you want to grow in the garden, it’s important to have the soil ready before you buy. I can’t count how many times I’ve purchased transplants, telling myself that I’ll get the garden bed ready soon, then let the poor things sit until they are pale, leggy, and root bound. By the time I get them into the garden, they don’t stand a chance of reaching their full potential-if they survive at all. Bulbs and seeds store better than transplants for longer periods of time, but they must be kept away from heat and light sources.If you want to grow from seed, you must factor in the number of days from germination to harvest or flowering. We have a relatively short growing season, so choose varieties that will produce before the first autumn frost. For example, we have approximately 21 frost-free growing days, so planting tomato seeds directly outdoors won’t work. If you have adequate sunlight or sunlamps, you can start longer-growing seeds indoors then transplant them in your garden when all danger of frost is gone. Some seeds for cool weather plants, like lettuce, cabbage, carrots and kohlrabi, can be seeded directly outdoors.When buying seeds, be sure that they are marked for this year’s planting-older seeds often won’t germinate, and you won’t get as many plants. Seeds are usually sold in packets that have planting information, USDA zone maps, and the time it takes from germination to harvest. Keep in mind that altitude, weather, and precipitation will affect these growing times. Keep notes about the seeds you’ve tried so that you know which will do well in your own garden next year. It’s become common to use the term “bulb” to describe not only true bulbs but also rhizomes and corms. When selecting bulbs, it’s critical to know the time from planting to flowering. To avoid disappointment, choose bulbs that are appropriate for our area. A reputable local nursery will only carry bulbs that are proven to grow in Summit County. Look for bulbs that are firm, disease free, and have no cuts, soft spots, or scars. There is a general rule that bigger bulbs produce bigger flowers, so look for bulbs that are large for their type. After purchasing bulbs, it’s important to get them in the ground as soon as possible, but you must be careful not to plant too soon as many bulbs are not frost-tolerant. If you buy bulbs before you’re ready to plant, you can store them loosely in a paper bag in your refrigerator. Keep them away from fruits and vegetables as they emit ethylene gas as they ripen and this destroys bulbs.Transplants are a very popular choice in Summit County because we have such a short growing season. Look for plants that have a stocky stem and thick, green leaves. You may see pale or leggy plants on sale, but they won’t do well in the garden so you really won’t be saving any money. If possible, choose plants that haven’t begun to flower. Avoid transplants that show obvious signs of disease or insects. These plants won’t do well and can actually infect the garden soil. Once infected, it can take several seasons to rid garden soil of pests and diseases. Transplants should be hardened off before they go into the garden to protect them from transplant shock. Place the plants outdoors for a few hours where they will be exposed to sun and wind, then bring them back indoors. Gradually increase the amount of time they spend outside each day. Once a transplant has been hardened off, it’s important to plant it in the garden bed as soon as possible.Great gardens start with great products, and selection is an important first step in ensuring that your garden will reach its full potential this year. Remember, a bargain is only a bargain if you get great results. In spring, we all have a dream of what we want this season’s garden to look like. Carefully choosing seeds, bulbs, and transplants will help you make that dream come true.For more information about this or any gardening/landscaping questions, please e-mail us at office2006@neilslunceford.com or call (970) 468-0340.


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