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Countdown To Spring: S-12
by John Harmon
March 2, 2003

I've discovered that many folks who don't regularly read about gardening and have never done any gardening read my column last week. The old adage that "sex sells" is certainly true. I got e-mail from a fellow in Whitehorse who actually has a scar on his nose from the burn caused by a static discharge during an attempted kiss at a dance in the winter of 1975 when he was just 18 years old. He's still single!

It's great to see the days getting longer and all the talk among gardeners is about planting. The countdown to spring has started. This week we have just 12 weeks left before we can hope to plant things outdoors. This year however I think planting will be a little later than normal. Many folks like to plant after the full moon in May. Another popular planting time is the long weekend in May. This year the full moon is on Friday the 16th and that is also the beginning of the long weekend for Victoria Day. The folks who grow and sell bedding plants are going to love you if you set bedding plants out that weekend because they will get to sell you more plants after yours get frosted. The chances are slim that the last half of May will remain frost-free. I make this prediction for the benefit of all gardeners in the Whitehorse area because you know as well as I do that once I've made this statement the last half of May will be frost free!

If you’re starting seeds in a heated greenhouse or anywhere else the direct sun can hit the flats be careful about overheating. Every year I hear about someone that plants tomato seeds in one of those mini-greenhouses with the clear plastic lids and to their dismay none of them come up. The reason is that once the sun hits that flat of seeds the soil temperature quickly climbs and cooks the seeds. It only takes a couple hours and most of the seeds will be destroyed. Remember that one of the ways to completely sterilize soil is by covering it tightly with clear plastic and letting it bake in the sun. This method will kill even the most persistent weed seeds so vegetable and flower seeds don't stand a chance.

It’s not just tomatoes either. Most annual seeds will not stand the high temperatures that just a couple hours in the direct sun will create. To avoid loosing your seeds, be sure to take the covers off as soon as the sun reaches your flats. Even if you are starting seeds near a window indoors you will still have to make sure the covers are off whenever the sun can hit them. Removing the covers can also help to prevent damping off. Those flats with the covers are great for holding moisture but they also create the perfect environment for fungus and mold. If you use a sterile potting mix to start with and open them up for a couple of hours every day for ventilation you will avoid most of the problems associated with molds and fungi.

If you have more questions about starting seeds or when to plant I'll be online live every Saturday morning in March at The live chat starts at 10 AM PST and runs for an hour. You can drop by with any questions you have about gardening and I'll try and give you an answer or some of the other folks at the chat may have the answers you are looking for. Drop in and give it a try.

If you are using artificial lights to start plants indoors this spring and need more information there is a book by Elaine C. Cherry called Fluorescent Light Gardening available in the public library here in Whitehorse. You will also find more information by clicking on the link " Click here for information on supplemental lighting" at

With the countdown to spring running things will start to get busy with all the seed suppliers so get your order in early before supplies start running low. You will notice that this year it's hard to find some kinds of plastic pots and inserts. That is partially due to a couple of the big pot manufactures going out of business last fall. Some items are in very short supply and you may not have much choice in colors. The other problem is that even if you do find all the plastic pots you need they may cost your more. Plastic is made from oil and unless you use a horse for transportation you know about the rise in oil prices. This is going to affect the price of all plastic material from pots to greenhouse plastic. Get yours early before prices go up any more!

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