January 2003

Starting Vegetable Plants Indoors

By starting vegetable plants indoors, you can enjoy earlier vegetables in late spring and summer.

Obtain best results by using a soilless potting mixture and artificial light, such as fluorescent tubes. Soilless mixes are available at most garden centers. Containers for seed should be sterilized by dipping them in a solution of 10 percent household bleach and 90 percent water. Large seeds, such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, can be planted directly into cell packs. If packs are unavailable, plastic water cups make a good substitute. Cut cups down to about two inches. Punch drainage holes in bottoms and sides with a sharp instrument. Sow small seed in terra cotta or plastic flower pots and then water. Cover rooting containers to retain moisture. Remove covers when seed germinates.

HORT Shorts

  • Spider plants (Chorophytum comosum) are also known as "airplane plant" and "St. Bernard's Lily." Native to South Africa, these plants reproduce by putting down tufts from runners which form roots around the mother plant. Easy-to-grow spider plants can tolerate, but prefer to avoid hot, dry air. More importantly, don't let the soil dry out. These plants are attractive when grown in hanging baskets, which allow graceful sprays to spill over the edges.
  • Pansies display vibrant colors, with shades of blue, deep purple, wine red, maroon, and yellow. Some are streaked with white. They're most effective when planted in accent beds of one color. Plants flower from fall through late spring. In higher altitudes, mulch heavily if freezes are forecasted.
  • If the forecast is for heavy snow, protect boxwood plants by binding limbs together with rope to secure branches. This lessens the chance that the weight of snow will snap branches. Light snow can be swept off plants with a broom.
  • Keep in mind that newly- set plants need to be watered, even in winter.
  • Clean away and burn all twigs and litter beneath pecan trees to prevent twig girdler damage.
  • When planting trees and shrubs, make holes somewhat larger than the ball of the root system. This allows new roots to enter soft soil.
  • Cut the new growth of crape myrtle and butterfly bush back one-half to one-third to force stronger new growth and heavier bloom in the spring.
  • Along with many popular landscape and indoor plants, azaleas are poisonous if chewed by dogs and cats. As with children, the toxins in plants depend on age and weight, the amount ingested, and whether the individual is allergic to a particular plant.
  • Fast-growing shade trees, such as silver maple, mimosa, and Chinese elm, are very susceptible to disease and insect attack.
  • Test yard soil. If report shows the need for lime on the lawn, spread it now.

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