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Guidelines to starting tomato, eggplant and pepper seeds for your Des Moines garden

Start seeds at the right time for healthy transplants
Start seeds at the right time for healthy transplants
Benjamin Miller

Massive piles of icy snow and temperatures that stubbornly refuse to soar make it hard to imagine that spring is just around the corner. Even though it seems impossible, spring will be here before we know it; amateur and expert gardeners alike will be outside with trowels in hand before the last of the snow has melted.

Get a head start with your heat-loving plants by starting them indoors, so you are ready to transplant them at just the right time. Starting plants from seed not only saves money, but also allows you to be in complete control of what types of chemicals your plants are exposed to.

Earl May has announced that their seed collection is in. All of their stores have an amazing variety of seed to choose from. Holub Garden Greenhouse (22085 580th Avenue in Ames) also has an excellent selection, including a large variety of organic seed from Burpee.

Don’t worry if you can’t find organic seed for your favorite vegetable. As long as you start the seeds without chemicals and continue to raise the plant chemical-free you will be just fine.

It is essential that you start your seeds at the right time. The plants must be strong enough to withstand outdoor conditions, but not so large that transplanting them will damage the roots.

Look at the back of the seed packet and find the days to maturity for the seed you purchased. Then determine when you plan to transplant outdoors. Using the days to maturity on the back of the seed packet, count backward from the transplant date. This is the date you should start your seed indoors.

For a June 1 transplanting date (this is the safest time to transplant in the Des Moines area) use these guidelines:

Vegetable       Start Seeds
Pepper             March 2-30
Eggplant          March 9-23
Tomato            April 6-20

Plant the seeds in an organic growing medium like sphagnum moss, found at Earl May and Holub. Be sure to keep the soil moist and warm. Feed the seedlings with diluted liquid fish fertilizer every 2 weeks after their first true leaves appear. Make sure they have plenty of light and heat, and you should have healthy and strong transplants when warm weather finally rolls in.


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