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Starting Plants in Pots

April 15, 2014

Credit: Celeste Longacre
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Many folks like to start their own transplants in pots indoors before the cold weather has completely lifted.

Others, like apartment dwellers or folks with a minimal back yard, enjoy growing produce in pots all summer long. Now, spring, is the ideal time to start.

Make sure that the pots you are going to use are clean and disease and pest-free as well as possessing some drainage holes. If you are going to reuse one, rinse it with bleach; a 10% bleach solution on an old rag works wonders. Just wipe it down all over. After rinsing it well, put it in the Sun for a few hours to dry.

Once it dries, set it outside on the picnic table (or the ground). It’s best to place a paper towel or two over the holes at the bottom first. This ensures that your potting soil is not going to leak out all over the ground.

Next, fill it ¾ full of potting soil. This soil is what is going to be feeding your plants so you want to get the best medium possible. Ask at your local nursery who provides the highest quality and purchase accordingly. Adding a bit of kelp can also be a plus.

After mixing in the kelp, seeds can be placed on top of this soil.

Even though you will end up with only one plant per pot, it’s a good idea to plant several seeds. This gives you a few assurances—not all seeds germinate and some plants will always appear to be sturdier and healthier than others. Cover these seeds with a bit more of the potting soil. A good rule of thumb is to use twice as much dirt as the seed is thick. Water immediately and keep an eye on their moisture. Plants in pots dry out much faster than their counterparts in the garden.

Once the plants emerge, give them some time. You want to see who establishes themselves as the most optimum. Plants that rush up and get quite tall are thought to be “spindly” and will be weaker in the long run. If you are going to be keeping these plants in their pots, you eventually want to thin them to one plant per pot. If you are just getting some seedlings going, make sure that they all have room to grow.

I will be transplanting these kales into the garden in a few weeks so I just thinned them to keep them growing inside.

My lettuce, which I had covered with hoops and clear plastic for the winter, has returned. It actually looks quite good. This variety is Rouge d’Hiver (which is French for red of the winter).

Some of my spinach has also returned. It doesn’t look quite as good as the lettuce, but it may pick up as time goes on. This was also covered with clear plastic over hoops for the winter.


Celeste Longacre has been growing vitually all of her family's vegetables for the entire year for over 30 years. She cans, she freezes, she dries, she ferments & she root cellars. She also has chickens.

Celeste has also enjoyed a longtime relationship with The Old Farmer's Almanac as their astrologer.

Her new book about living lightly on the Earth is coming soon!

Comments

These are all great tips. I

By Parker C

These are all great tips. I will be transplanting a variety of your recommendations to go with some basil and other herbs.
Thank you!!

I am a transplant from a suu

By Parker C

I am a transplant from a suu y yet cooler climate of Southern California to the SW coast of Florida. The heat, direct sun, and soil are very different here. I'd like to grow a good variety of produce. Any advice?
Thank you!

Hi Parker, I am a northern

By Celeste Longacre

Hi Parker,

I am a northern gardener. However, I do know that sweet potatoes love heat (over 100 degrees). Okra, peppers and tomatoes enjoy a warm environment. You could also grow sweet onions and celery.

I am starting some seeds

By taytay1023

I am starting some seeds indoors. Spinach, peppers and the like. So do I use just a couple seeds per pot? And when you 'thin' them out - when do you do that? Like how big should the plant be? And how do you do it? I have always destroyed plants trying to thin them out.
Thanks! Also, how big should the plant be before putting in the ground?

Thanks!

Hi taytay, I would start

By Celeste Longacre

Hi taytay,

I would start with three seeds per pot. Thin them when they get a couple of inches tall. You could merely cut the plant at the base if you don't want to disturb the soil for the remaining plant.

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