The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

The Garden Guide

February 6, 2012

A cure for February blues

It’s not too early to start thinking about seeding

TARBORO — For some people, the great excitement leading up to the holiday season gives the mind a point of focus away from the mental challenge of the short winter days.  While some call it depression, many refer to this winter phenomenon as seasonal affective disorder.

While young seedlings do not suffer from the same ailment, plants and humans can still benefit from a similar light therapy of higher light levels or greater light duration. Instead of setting myself in front of a bright florescent light and gazing into an artificial sun, I prefer to position myself strategically in our small greenhouse and strengthen my core like the tomatoes and cucumbers around me.

While we vegetable gardeners are still on the early side of the curve for starting seeds destined for the Coastal Plains garden, it is not too early to begin thinking about how you will start your seeds and what growing conditions you will need.  

Let us assume that you have already carefully dog-eared the pages of your favorite seed catalog and the delivery date has been set; so now, let us focus on the key factors of good seed germination, water, temperature, oxygen and light.

Assuming that the seed is viable and all physical, chemical, or physiological barriers to germination have been overcome, subjecting the seed to the proper environmental conditions, will result in a vigorous new seedling.  Water is the first critical element as the seed must absorb moisture to soften the seed coat so that the embryo can emerge.  

As the seed begins to imbibe water, temperature contributes significantly to the rate and percentage of germination. Each plant species will have a maximum, minimum and optimal temperature at which the seed will germinate best.  

In general, 65-70 degrees F is a good starting point.

In addition to ample moisture and warm soil temperature, the availability of oxygen around the seed can also impact the germination process.  This factor emphasizes the need for a loose, well aerated potting mix, and not the native sandy or clay soils of the area.

While it is often thought that natural light is necessary within the greenhouse or cold frame for germination, in reality, some seeds will only germinate in darkness, others in light, and the remainder in either.  

With germination underway and the new growth emerging, light plays an increasing role as the plant needs to begin to produce its own food after depleting the energy stored within the seed.  Once the first set of true leaves has emerged, the tender young plant may need that same supplemental lighting that I benefit from through the winter doldrums.  

Place the florescent light fixtures 6-12 inches above the developing seedling and provide 12-16 hours of supplemental lighting to help the young plant develop short, strong stems.  Once the plants have been properly hardened-off (gradually acclimated to the outside growing conditions) and the threat of spring frost has passed, you will be off to a running start toward a season of fresh vegetables.  

Read more about Starting Plants from Seed at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/hil-8703.html.

Bob Filburn is an Edgecombe County Extension Service agent specializing in horticulture. Look for his Garden Guide each month on the Community page.

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The Garden Guide
  • pink-nerine.jpg Ask A Master Gardener

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    March 22, 2013 2 Photos

  • Master-Gardener.jpg "Ask A Master Gardener"

    Buddy H. (Tarboro) asks: I discovered this unusual substance wrapping the stems on all of my compacta holly when I was pruning them last week.

    March 15, 2013 1 Photo

  • Weeds.jpg Ask A Master Gardener

    "As the promise of spring begins to beckon the attention of "dormant" gardeners this time of year, so it is with those dormant weeds that will appear soon enough, making for a lot of catch up work to get our lawns ready for show time," says local Master Gardener Trainee, Bernice Pitt who has just completed certification in an NC State University course in Turf Management.  Pitt is manager of the lawn and garden center at Marrow-Pitt Ace Home Center in Tarboro and is ready to help you with solutions in
    maintaining your lawn.  "I have found that the best source for answers to questions regarding turf grasses is the site:
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    www.turfweedmanagement.ncsu./weedmanagement.aspx," Pitt added. "It's where we found answers to this week's questions."

    March 8, 2013 1 Photo

  • Master Gardener.jpg "Ask A Master Gardener"

    "Ask A Master Gardener" is a weekly column providing our readers solutions to common problems concerning horticulture, gardening, and pest management. Trained Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have access to the research that provides answers.
    Submit your questions by email to  askemgv@gmail.com, call the local Extension Center at 641-7815 and tell them you have a question for a master gardener; a volunteer will return your call with a solution to your problem, or write to "Ask A Master Gardener", c/o The Daily Southerner, P.O. Box 1199, Tarboro, 27886.

    February 22, 2013 1 Photo

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    Ronnie E. (Conetoe) asks: What is the best temperature and method to store fresh pecans?

    February 8, 2013 1 Photo

  • Filbrun 2.jpg Sanitation: An Important Garden Chore

    So, what will tomorrow bring?  At this time of year, we are riding the roller coaster up and down as winter and spring duke it out.  While it is still too early to start most seeded varieties of annual flower and vegetable varieties, it is not too early to prepare for the upcoming gardening season.

    February 6, 2013 1 Photo

  • "Ask A Master Gardener"

    John W. (Tarboro) Asks: A neighbor posed this question to pass along. They did nothing to winterize their yard and, as a result, have all of the winter-type weeds that survive everything. They wanted to know if there is anything they can do now to kill off the weeds and what and when do they start to try and green up their yard and kill back weeds as we head out of winter.

    February 4, 2013

  • image002-resized.jpg Ask A Master Gardener

    This week, we have two questions coming from visitors to the Blount-Bridgers House Garden.  The garden committee works regularly each week to maintain this lovely garden oasis in Tarboro’s Historic District. Garden manager, Jeni Filbrun invites you to join the volunteers, “the weekly weeders,” each Wednesday morning at 10 for an hour of garden tending.

    January 28, 2013 3 Photos

  • Master gardener.jpg Ask A Master Gardener

    “Ask A Master Gardener” is a weekly column providing our readers solutions to common problems concerning horticulture, gardening, and pest management.  Trained Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have access to the research that provide answers.  
    Submit your questions by email to askemgv@gmail.com.  Or call the local Extension Center at 252-641-7815 and tell them you have a question for a master gardener; a volunteer will return your call with a solution to your problem, or write to “Ask A Master Gardener”, c/o The Daily Southerner, P.O. Box 1199, Tarboro, NC 27886.

    January 11, 2013 1 Photo

  • paperwhite bulbs-3.jpg Ask A Master Gardener

    “Ask A Master Gardener” is a weekly column providing our readers solutions to common problems concerning horticulture, gardening, and pest management.  Trained Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have access to the research that provide answers.  
    Submit your questions by email to askemgv@gmail.com.  Or call the local Extension Center at 252-641-7815 and tell them you have a question for a master gardener; a volunteer will return your call with a solution to your problem, or write to “Ask A Master Gardener”, c/o The Daily Southerner, P.O. Box 1199, Tarboro, NC 27886.

    January 4, 2013 1 Photo

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