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Valley Grows Q and A: Shining a light on growing plans

Q: Can you tell me which seeds to start first? Any tips on making sure I get good plants?

— Michelle from Austintown

A: January is a great time to get a plan together for ensuring you have the seeds you need and you have the supplies you need to get those seeds started. You don’t really need to start any seeds before mid-February, and there are only a few.

The seeds to think about first will be spinach, onions, parsley and related early season crops. While you can get started planning, most of the work starts several weeks from now.

The traditional crops like tomato, pepper, beets, Swiss chard, cabbage and so on do not need started until April. Some of these plants will grow faster and can be transplanted outdoors earlier in the season. Others take a little longer.

Crops like cucumbers and melons, sweet corn and cauliflower can wait until May. Pumpkins can be started early but are generally left to be direct-seeded around June 15 to get the best pumpkins for carving at the end of October.

There are options for getting cool-season crops to grow outside with some help with season extension tools. Cool-season crops are things like turnips, beets and carrots. They can be started inside and transplanted where it is warm enough for them to grow. To do this, you can use cold frames, row covers, hoops and more depending upon the time of year.

Cold frames can be simple structures up against the house to hold heat. A hoop house is basically an unheated greenhouse that can be closed up to retain heat. Row covers can be used as we get closer to spring, or late in the fall season.

To learn more about cold frames and to find plans to build your own at http://go.osu.edu/coldframes.

These cool-season crops are more tolerant of colder temperatures. Most seed catalogues have details for the most cold-tolerant and shortest season vegetables. For details on starting a cool-season garden, go to http://go.osu.edu/coolseason.

One of the best guides for starting seeds at home is a site through the University of Maine. It has detailed videos, lists of supplies, details on when to start seeds (early / mid / late), and walks you through the conditions you need to have for the best success. View the details on this site at: http://go.osu.edu/startseeds.

Seeds that have been around for a year or more should be put through a germination test before you depend on them for your garden’s production. Generally, a germination test involves 10 to 15 seeds. You moisten paper towels and put the seeds between two paper towels and place this in a clear, sealed bag. Wait at least a week to check to see if the seeds have germinated. The rate depends on the type of plant you are growing, with some germinating in just four days and others taking around two weeks. For details on this process, go to http://go.osu.edu/oldseed.

Barrett is The Ohio State University extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call 330-533-5538 to submit questions to the Plant and Pest Clinic. During the off season, questions can be submitted at any time. Find details at go.osu.edu/mahoningclinic.

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