Hands-on heirloom seed starting workshop

On Feb. 2, my absolute favorite meteorologist, the world-renowned weather-predicting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow which, as we all know, means spring will be arriving early this year.

For some North Country gardeners that means seed-starting time is here. Well, okay, it’s not here quite yet. But, those who are committed to getting as early a start as possible are preparing for the growing season right now. They are among the region’s most enthusiastic gardeners. And they are joyfully looking forward to once again starting their gardens – indoors.

Why start your gardens indoors from seeds? Well, devoted area gardeners do so for a number of reasons. First and foremost is the fact that starting seeds indoors is convenient, practical, and an easy way to get a jump on the growing season. But starting seeds early indoors can also be considerably less expensive than buying starter plants. In fact, one starter plant can cost just as much as, or more than, a whole packet of seeds. And starting plants from seeds allows gardeners to select the cultivars they prefer, including varieties that are never offered at big box stores and rarely sold at local garden centers or nurseries.

Starting early indoors is also a way to extend the season, allowing discriminating gardeners to choose varieties that require a longer growing season than ours would normally allow. Some may opt for strains that mature more quickly as well, because selecting cultivars that don’t necessarily need to be started especially early indoors allows growers who do start them in the pre-season, indoors, to be just a few weeks away from harvest when others are setting out small, immature transplants. What’s more, by starting early maturing plants at, say, 10 day intervals, not only can proficient gardeners be the first to harvest, they can continue to harvest over prolonged periods of time.

Starting vegetable and flower gardens from seeds indoors can be a very satisfying experience, not to mention a lot of fun. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a better way to overcome the boredom of winter and cabin fever.

Those with children might choose to get the kids involved in growing indoors from seeds, too. Think of it as an opportunity to share some quality time while fostering a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the entire growing cycle. Young children learn by imitating, and they’ll take great pride in seeing plants develop from seeds that they’ve started themselves.

Unfortunately, less-experienced gardeners are sometimes intimidated by the thought of starting their gardens from seeds indoors. Over the years, I’ve chatted with several would-be green thumbs who became discouraged after starting their gardens early from seeds, only to see all or most of their seedlings suffer, get leggy, and eventually die. If you’re one of those folks, if starting plants from seeds has been a struggle for you in the past, or if you’re a beginner who’d like to get a handle on successfully starting garden plants from seeds at home, Franklin County Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Volunteers would like to invite you to attend a Seed Starting Workshop designed to help you — and your garden flowers and vegetables -?get off to a great start. The Master Gardeners will be bringing their expertise on starting seeds and nurturing seedlings for garden planting, and will have all of the necessary supplies on hand, including heirloom tomato seeds. All you have to do is get there.

Learn how, with some simple techniques and inexpensive start-up supplies, you can easily get your favorite flower and vegetable varieties started indoors, and keep them thriving with minimal effort.

This program, which is being offered in cooperation with Common Ground Garden, a project of Adirondack Sustainable Communities Inc. currently managing two community garden sites in Saranac Lake, will cover a wide variety of topics including:

-Seed selection (including how to read seed packages and which flowers and vegetables should and should not be started early indoors)

-Containers for starting seeds

-Soil medium selection




-Lighting -?including a demonstration of how to easily fabricate a grow light stand

-Keeping your flower and vegetable seedlings healthy

-Getting your plants ready to be planted outdoors

Talk about a growing opportunity! Each attendee will sow several pots with heirloom tomato seeds, which they will take home, along with several instructional handouts and a greater understanding of how to effectively start flowers and vegetables from seed and keep growing seedlings and young plants healthy, hardy and vigorous until they are planted outdoors. Gardeners of all experience levels are welcome.

Master Gardener volunteers will also be available to answer any questions participants may have about garden planning. Through this type of education and community outreach, our Master Gardeners are helping Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County live up to its mission of building strong and sustainable New York communities.