Spring is only a short five weeks away. I’m getting things in gear. I have wanted a seedling heating mat for years. I received three for an early birthday present. I had already started three trays of tomato seed when the first one arrived. Hubby promptly set the mat up and started it to heating. Four days later, I had seedlings up all over the trays.

Spring’s Around the Corner
Spring is only a short five weeks away. I’m getting things in gear. I have wanted a seedling heating mat for years. I received three for an early birthday present. I had already started three trays of tomato seed when the first one arrived. Hubby promptly set the mat up and started it to heating. Four days later, I had seedlings up all over the trays.
This is good—and bad. I started the seeds early so I would have heirloom tomato plants to give away at GWC Park’s Coffee With Carver program on March 15th. Without the heating mats, I knew I would need a week longer to have baby plants ready for their new foster plant parents. It’s still too cool to put the seedlings into the greenhouse without losing them overnight. That is a recipe for long leggy plants.
The other two mats have arrived so I will soon have them holding trays of brassica family, beets, spinach, herbs, lettuce, and onions. Of these, the onions are the hardest to get the temperature just right. They, also, must be the freshest seeds. Like parsley, onions seeds have a very short shelf life. I ordered seeds in November and got 2017 seeds. My mistake. My 40% germination test rate is so poor, I won’t have near enough plants to fill the bed. The tomatoes germinated out at 90% or better; even the seeds I saved from an excellent tomato years earlier.
The Brassicaceae family is one of our most important agricultural and ornamental plant families. Cabbage, kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, all cresses, collards, mustards, kohlrabi, turnip, rutabaga, radish, tatsoi, rape (canola), and shepherd’s purse are common foods on our plates. Add to these the beautiful flowers of alyssum, candytuft, rocket (wild edible), Matthiola (stocks), honesty, Centaurea (cornflower), and wallflowers and you can see how important this family is to us.  
The brassica family tends to bolt or get too bitter to eat in hot weather. Getting them started early prevent that and helps control cabbage moth problems. I’ve had such a problem with the cabbage moths that hubby is going to put insect screening on the tunnel house to see if we can have more of the specialty croips we grow each year.
The next seeds to plant are garden and sweet peas, carrots, runner beans, and chicory. Although carrots are recommended to be direct sown only, they can be transplanted IF you are careful. I’ve moved carrots into beds when I couldn’t start them any other way. If I moved them when the roots were only an inch long, moved them into a loose soil, and didn’t bend the root they grew without the twisted roots. Some did grow to seven-inch circumference and some split. But, they still tasted just like a carrot.
I start brassica flowers so I can enjoy them before hot weather takes them out. Another flower, the Scarlet Runner bean has done okay for me, but I hope to enjoy the beans off it this year. I’ll start it indoors next week to give it a longer growing season before it gets too hot. I may even get the root to grow large enough to try it this year.
See you in the garden.