Getting the Seeds and Cuttings Started
February is the start of the growing season for many of the do-it-yourself gardeners. Chores include starting seeds indoors that require a long growing season, planting tuberous begonias, and getting last years geraniums and fuchsias out of dormancy so that they begin to grow and cuttings can be made.
There are some vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant that need a long growing season, and these seeds should be started indoors over the next few weeks if you want to be able to enjoy their harvest in the summer.
Flowers such as geraniums, petunias, pansies, impatiens, lobelia, snapdragons, salvia, etc and many of the perennials should have their seed started indoors very soon as they require a long growing season and/or the seeds take a long time to germinate. If you are not sure about when to start seeds indoors, check the seed packet as it will give recommendations such as ‘days to germination’, and how many weeks before the last spring frost to start seeds indoors. In the Prince George area the last spring frost can change as it depends on where you live. In the bowl area you can plant out earlier than if you lived up in the Hart, Pineview, Blackburn, Beaverly etc., where the last spring frost can be mid-May. This is something that you will learn by trial and error. It can also change from one year to the other.
Generally we count back from mid May, so 8-10 weeks before last frost will mean to start seeds indoors sometime around the end of February to mid-March. Prince George has a short growing season, so you will want to start a lot of seeds indoors first to give plants a head start. Most flowers, and perennials do better with an early start as well as many of the vegetables. Vegetable seeds that can directly be planted outdoors and grown successfully are carrots, beets, parsnips, beans, peas, radishes, spinach, and salad crops. Potatoes and onion sets are also planted directly outdoors.
Tuberous Begonias should be planted now. Whether you take the tubers that were saved from last year out of storage or purchase new tubers from the garden centre, you want to start them in February. The earlier the tuber is started the bigger the plant will be in mid May when it is time to plant it outdoors. Plant tubers in peat pots filled with a light, airy, well-drained, high quality potting soil. Using peat pots works well as it makes transplanting very easy as well as stress-free on the plants root system. Plant tubers with the hollow side up, in the pot and have it barely covered with soil. Water the soil surrounding the tuber and not the tuber itself as this will help prevent water from gathering in the hollow part of the tuber which can lead to rot. Place the planted tuber in a south facing window or under a grow light. Temperature should be around 17-20 Celsius.
Geraniums and Fuchsias can be started by cuttings that are taken from plants that were brought indoors last fall and stored over winter. If you have them stored in a dark space, it is time to take them out of dormancy. Trim the stems to one-third of heir original height and place them in a warm (20-25C) south facing window. Water the plant, allowing the top layer of soil to go slightly dry between waterings, and fertilize with 12-36 -12. As soon as the plant begins to show signs of growth, take it out of its original pot, shaking off any excess soil and replant it into a pot just large enough to hold the root ball. As you continue to fertilize and water the plant it will soon produce new shoots. When the shoots are 8-10 cm long they can be made into cuttings, by cutting them off the old plant on an angle just below the leaf node. Remove the bottom leaves from the cutting, dip the cut end in rooting hormone, and place the cutting into a fine textured soil such as a starter mix. Keep the starter mix evenly moist and fertilize bi-weekly with 10-52-10. When the cuttings have formed roots and are established, switch to a fertilizer such as 20-20-20. As the new plant grows, pinch out the growing tips to create a full, bushy plant. In April change to a flowering plant fertilizer and by mid-May these new plants will be ready to transplant outdoors and be enjoyed over the summer months.
Jos Van Hage owns and operates two Art Knapp Home and Garden Centres in Prince George:
- Highway 16 West at Kimball Road
- Highway 97 North at Northwood Pulpmill Road