Seed Starting? Now!?

We’ve rounded the corner into the New Year, we’ve passed the Winter Solstice (the days are getting longer!), and folks, it’s time to start thinking about spring (legitimately).  If you grow in high tunnels, cold frames, or a greenhouse (and you should), the spring planting season is just around the corner.

Your soil should have been amended and put to bed in the fall, so you should not have amending to do this coming spring.  Getting ready now means starting seed, checking the integrity of your season extending gear (high tunnels, cold frames, and greenhouses), and keeping your soil well watered.  Here at the top 10 things to get done this month:

  1. Keep your garden soil watered – do not let it dry out
  2. Set up your indoor seed starting station
  3. Order replacement seeds for the coming season
  4. Clean seed starting flats, misting water bottles, and heating mats
  5. Check your high tunnels, cold frames, or greenhouse for air leaks
  6. Check your high tunnels, cold frames, or greenhouse for pests (they like to winter over in such places)
  7. Conduct germination tests on old seed
  8. Create a seed starting list – know how many plants, of what variety, and when during the season you will need the starts (if you’re not sure how many plants will fit in your growing space, check out my review of this tool, developed by Mother Earth News.  It’s what I use, and it works great)
  9. Replace grow lights if necessary
  10. Check into soil blocks for seed starting, if you don’t already use them

As always, keep one eye on the bee hive (watch for starvation as we progress into spring), take stock of your backyard chickens and consider if you plan to order replacement chicks (more on this later), and if you keep meat rabbits start scheduling your late winter/early spring breeding schedule.

January is when the gardening cycle kicks off again, if you’re planting flats of starts in February.  February flats are ready for transplant by mid-March to early April, and if you’re using season extending gear that is perfect timing.  If you plant in exposed raised beds, hold off a little longer on your starts, as cool season crops go in the ground around mid-April.  Check-out this planting timeline from Pikes Peak Urban Gardens for more details.

So yes, spring is officially around the corner, and yes, we have an awful lot of winter left to go (the conundrum of Colorado weather).  Get your seed starting gear ready to go now, start your seed flats early next month, and you’ll be well on your way to a great spring garden full of your favorite lettuces, kales, and cool season herbs.

9 Responses to Seed Starting? Now!?

  1. Sidney Patin January 3, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    Hi. Thanks for the update and the to-do list for January. I will certainly get started early this year to see if I can improve my crop.
    One thing I didn’t do in late fall was to amend the soil. I wanted to put some horse manure in the garden boxes but somehow got busy and never did get around to it.
    So what would you recommend in that situation? What can I do now to help get my garden beds ready for planting? I want to try to avoid the bags of stuff at the big box stores, too expensive. Any ideas you can share with me? Thanks.

    • Christine January 3, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

      I’m guessing your soil is frozen a few inches down (or at least it will be after this weekend) so you’ll have to wait to work the soil until the spring thaw. In the spring I would recommend good compost (if you can find some) and worm castings. Check with Rocky Mountain Worm Company and see what they have available. Do you keep worms? You might try composting with those little guys for the next few months.

  2. Don January 4, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    Thank you for the good advice Christine . I’m getting excited for the spring season already , so this gives me some ideas for chores to work on now ,while I dream of the nice warm spring days that are right around the corner .

    • Christine January 6, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

      Ah, warm days, green leaves budding, flowers and honey bees. Sigh. I can hardly wait. 🙂

  3. Drew Stout January 18, 2014 at 5:17 am #

    Thanks for the heads up!
    Is the time line given by Pikes Peak Urban Gardens for season extended areas like cold frames, or for exposed plants. I have cold frames should I wait to plant outside until mid March?

    • Christine January 19, 2014 at 11:41 am #

      Larry (of PPUG) just planted out his greenhouse a few weeks ago, and my greenhouse is going like gangbusters. As for coldframes, cold season starts could be transferred out in early March. PPUG’s timeline (http://ppugardens.org/garden_tips/planting_timeline) shows direct sowing in mid-April to mid-May. With high tunnels, cold frames, greenhouses, and remay, you can gain as much at two full zones – taking us from a zone 5 to a zone 7. Here’s a zone 7 planting guide for reference. http://veggieharvest.com/calendars/zone-7.html You need to use two methods together to gain two full zones. i.e. high tunnels and remay.

  4. Robin February 15, 2014 at 8:08 am #

    Hi Christine, I just read about the remay. I was wondering what weight you recommend for Colorado? Thanks.

    • Christine February 17, 2014 at 9:45 am #

      Hey Robin! Reemay (or Agribon) come in different weights for different temperature protection. We use both a “frost blanket” weight and a summer weight. The frost blanket is for extreme cold; the summer weight is for warmer nights and can also be used for bug protection (floating row covers). Agribon has testimonials claiming it stands up better to UV. Bottom line is this – how many degrees warmer are you trying to keep your plants? That will determine what you get. Again, I use a light and a heavy, and apply them to the garden accordingly.


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    […] you caught my post last month that details what you needed to do to get your seed starting gear ready for spring, and if you followed-through, your seed starting gear should be ready to go.  This is good news, […]

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