Winter is nearing an end for me

By Jan Riggenbach For The Globe Gazette

No matter the weather, winter officially ends for me on the February day I plant the season’s first seeds indoors.

Like many gardeners, I grow a lot of transplants from seed for an assortment of reasons. Besides chasing away winter blues, saving money, and making sure my seedlings are lovingly nurtured from day one, a prime advantage is the huge choice of varieties available no other way. Carmen, for example. It’s an Italian roasting pepper I love because the fruits are sweet, prolific, and early to ripen to red.

Last February I planted seeds of a dozen varieties of peppers but somehow failed to plant Carmen. An exhaustive search for Carmen plants in May turned up nothing. I had to settle for another variety, which produced a disappointing harvest. I won’t forget Carmen this year.

For seed-starting on a budget, start seedlings in just about anything that allows water to drain out. I often reuse small plastic pots every year, after first scrubbing them in a solution of nine parts water and one part chlorine bleach. I’ve also used shallow cardboard boxes, pots made from newspaper, peat pots and cardboard egg cartons. Last year, I had great luck with CowPots, biodegradable seed-starting pots made from composted and odor-free cow manure.

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