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Nature’s ­Miracle

Starting from seed can transform your vegetable garden

     Early March is a great time to start your tomato seeds. It will make you feel like spring isn’t too far away. Tomato seeds need 70- to 75-degree temperatures, shallow planting (one-eighth-inch deep) to germinate and sunlight once they’re up. After they get their second set of true leaves, you can transplant them to larger containers.
      I like to use a clean chopstick to prick the little seedlings out of their starter tray. Always handle the seedlings by their mature leaf rather than squeezing the delicate stem. Loosen the roots from the bottom up so as not to damage any. Gently pull and transfer to a clean small pot with a pre-dibbled hole. Use new containers or recycle old ones rinsed with 10 percent bleach water. You can prevent damping-off disease (a fungus in soil) by using clean equipment.
     Transplant your seedling into a soil-less media (sold in all nursery centers). Be careful not to overwater, and put your plants in a sunny window. Apply a water-soluble organic fertilizer like fish emulsion at half strength after transplanting.
      Tomatoes cannot be put outside until the weather warms toward the end of April or into May. Then they should be slowly conditioned.
      Cool-weather vegetables can be conditioned gradually to the outdoors once they have grown a few inches. Lettuces, spinach, cabbage and bok choy can go outside by mid-March as long as we’re not getting extreme low temperatures.
      It’s good to start working on organic matter for your garden. More on that next time. 
      Here are some of my favorite catalogs for ordering seed.
  • Johnny’s Seeds from Maine has a great selection of vegetables, herbs and flowers: 877-564-6697. 
  • Select Seeds from Connecticut has a great selection of flowers, especially old-fashioned types: 800-684-0395.
  • Park Seed in South Carolina has a great selection of vegetables and flowers: 800-845-3369.
  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Missouri has a lot of hard-to-find seeds as well as heirlooms:
  • Burpee is owned by Ball Horticulture, the biggest horticultural company in the world, and has a vast array of vegetables and flowers: 800-888-1447. 


Maria Price founded Willow Oak Herb and Flower Farm and is now proprietor of Beaver Creek Cottage Gardens, a small native and medicinal plant farm.