- Author: Melissa G. Womack
- Author: Skylar Peters
February is a great time to start preparing for your spring and summer vegetable garden, especially if you want to get a head start on the growing season. According to the California Master Gardener Handbook, growing your own transplants from seed indoors can extend your garden season by several weeks, reduce your gardening cost and allow you to grow a more diverse variety of crops.
Growing from seed is not only fun, but it can also save you money. When stored properly a typical seed packet can last several years. Seeds should be started indoors or in an outdoor hot box or cold frame. Start growing the seeds 6-8 weeks before the date you would like to transplant them and when the threat of frost has passed.
Another benefit of growing vegetables from seed is the wide selection of varieties available from seed catalogs. Growing different varieties is important for an extended harvest and to find plants that grow well in your area. Vegetable plants sold in seedling form are generally available in only one or a few varieties. Plants typically started by seeds indoors include broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, parsley, tomatoes and peppers. Seeds typically started in the ground include beans, beets, carrots, peas and turnips.
What do you need to get started?
- Soil mix - The soil media you choose should be fine textured, uniform and airy. Do not use garden soil. It is usually too heavy and often may have disease-causing organisms. A commercial potting mix suited to starting seeds will work well. Fill your growing containers about 2/3 full.
- Containers - You can start seeds in almost any container that has drainage holes. Sterilize recycled containers in a 1:9 bleach to water solution, rinse them well and let them air dry prior to use.
- A location with proper light and temperature - A sunny window is usually the perfect spot as it has strong but indirect sunlight. Seed packages should instruct you on sunlight needs. Additionally, keep your seedlings in an area that stays between 65 and 70 degrees during the day and 55-60 degrees at night.
- Quality Seeds – Only plant seeds from a reputable source. Check your seed packets to ensure your seeds have not expired, and that you are planting them at the right time of year. You can also check for seed viability.
- Water – It is crucial to provide seeds with consistent watering. Seeds and seedlings must be kept evenly moist to thrive.
Steps to starting your vegetable garden indoors
- It is important to follow the instructions on your seed packet. Refer to the seed packet for the proper planting depth, plant spacing, and days to maturity.
- Once you have planted your seeds, water them and continue to do so consistently. The goal is to keep the soil evenly moist but not overly wet.
- Two weeks before transplanting, or when your plants are two to four inches tall, expose them to outdoor temperatures to acclimate them. Do this by leaving them outside in a shady spot during the day for a week, and bringing them inside at night. The following week, leave them outside in their containers during the day and at night, gradually exposing them to more sunlight. This process is referred to as hardening off.
- Transplant your vegetables into the garden, planting them at their original depth. Tomatoes can be an exception to this rule however, so consider this tutorial before planting tomato seedlings. Be sure to handle seedlings with care.
Ask your local UC Master Gardener Program
Have a seed starting or home vegetable gardening question? UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help. Click here to Find a Program and connect with your local UC Master Gardener Program. You will be redirected to your local county website and contact information. UC Master Gardener volunteers are available to help answer questions for FREE. Happy gardening!
- Author: Denise Godbout-Avant
There are three groups of plants that attract birds and each group draws different types of birds: Nectar plants, plants that provide seeds or nuts, and plants that produce berries or fruit. Many plants will provide more than one source of food, i.e., nectar in the spring and berries in autumn.
Here is a list of a few favorite native plants in each group and some of the birds they may attract.
Hummingbirds and Nectar
Hummingbirds prefer tubular shaped flowers that fit the length of their beak, and are bright in color, particularly red. Native salvias (sages), penstemon, columbine, and honeysuckle all serve up nectar for hummingbirds.
- Sages (Salvias): There are about 18 sages native to California, with Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) being one of them. The common name says it all! Fruity scented dark rose-lilac blossoms appear in March – May. It also produces autumn seeds that attract birds such as sparrows and finches.
- Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis). A small deciduous tree or shrub found in the foothills and mountains of California with distinctive shiny heart-shaped leaves. The showy bright pink or magenta flowers develop in the later winter and spring, growing in clusters all over the shrub, making the plant very colorful and noticeable in the landscape. Goldfinches and sparrows will feed on seeds produced in the fall.
- California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum). There's probably no better California native plant for attracting hummingbirds. A perennial plant, it blooms a bright profusion of scarlet flowers in spring and summer, and is often the only native California flowering plant blooming at the height of summer.
Birds That Eat Seeds
- Bush sunflower (Encelia californica), commonly referred to as "California bush sunflower.” With abundant bright yellow daises, it is beautiful in late winter through summer. Attracts goldfinches, sparrows, orioles, crows, Scrub jays, grosbeaks.
- California aster (Symphyotrichum chilense). A member of the Asteraceae family it is native to western North America. The summer blooming flowers come in blues, purples and yellow colors. It is also a host plant for the Northern Checkerspot, Field Crescent and Pearl Crescent butterflies.
- Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens), also known as Meadow Muhly and Deer Muhly, is a summer-growing, perennial bunchgrass whose seeds attracts woodpeckers, finches, grosbeaks, crows and jays.
Berry Plants are Important to Birds
Many shrubs and small trees provide berries that ripen at different times, so providing a seasonal variety, such as cherries for birds during the breeding seasons of spring and summer, and holly in winter, helps sustain birds throughout the year.
- Golden Currant (Ribes aureum). A deciduous plant that blooms in late winter and spring with golden yellow flowers that attract hummingbirds. The ripe berries in autumn are amber yellow to black in color, are edible, and attract a wide range of birds. There are two main varieties: Ribes aureum var. aureum and Ribes var. gracillimum.
- Blue Elderberry (Sambucus Mexicana). Also known as Mexican elderberry, the berries from elderberries are one of the most important sources of food for birds in California. Native from Oregon to Baja all the way to western Texas, it has cream or yellow flowers in the spring and purple berries in the fall.
- Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia). Toyon is a beautiful perennial chapparal shrub native throughout the western part of California and the Sierra foothills. It is also known by the common names Christmas berry and California holly from the bright red berries it produces during the winter months, which are produced in large quantities, maturing in the fall and persisting well into the winter. Note: the berries are toxic to humans in large amounts.
- California False Buckthorn (Frangula californica). This perennial, evergreen shrub is also known as Coffeeberry due to its berries containing seeds that resemble coffee beans. The shrub produces small, greenish white flowers in the summer, followed by dark berries that are sought after by birds.
By providing a variety of native plants that produce nectar, seeds and berries to attract different types of birds, you'll be providing a healthy haven for birds all year round, along with many other species of pollinators such as bees and butterflies!
Denise Godbout-Avant has been a UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardener since 2020.
A list of plants that naturally attract California Birds to your Garden https://www.laspilitas.com/bird.htm
Audubon native plants database https://www.audubon.org/native-plants
Now is the time to start thinking about which delicious vegetables you want to grow in your garden. Ted and Rho will go over all the possibilities with you in this class.
These vegetables don't mind the cold and can be planted from seed in February. They may grow slowly, but as weather warms they will grow more quickly. Lettuce, Swiss Chard, arugula, mustard greens, and other leafy greens do well. Radishes, beets, carrots, turnips, and happy during this time as well. However, by late spring/early summer, many of these plants can't take the heat and may “bolt,” sending up flower stalks that the bees enjoy.
You can plant these vegetables from seed or transplant in late March. They prefer warm weather and may “sulk” and grow very slowly if you plant them too early. These vegetables include melons, squash, winter squash, corn, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
Hope to “see” you there!
Where*: On Zoom. You will receive a link the morning of the class.
When: Tuesday, February 22, 2022 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Register at: http://ucanr.edu/spring/veg/2022
Instructors: Master Gardeners Rho Yare and Ted Hawkins
Class Title: From Seed to Shining Seed
Where: Stanislaus County Agricultural Center, Harvest Hall breezeway, 3800 Cornucopia Way, Modesto, 95358.
When: Tuesday, October 19, 2021 6:00-7:00 p.m.
Instructor: Heidi Aufdermaur
- Author: Heidi Aufdermaur
Fruit or vegetable, there is no doubt to the popularity of the home-grown tomato, picked fresh off the vine and appreciated for its tasty flavor, health benefits and beauty. Growing heirloom tomatoes has recently become more popular, with the various colors, shapes, and sizes.
The first year I started my tomatoes from seed, I was not sure how many seeds would germinate. I planted 3-4 seeds in each cell. To my surprise, most of them grew. I was challenged to thin them and keep the most vigorous ones, so I transplanted most of them into their own cell and grew about 450 tomato plants. I was very popular that year with co-workers and family as I shared the bounty.
Tomato plants are also an easy plant to grow in containers. The important thing to remember when choosing a tomato plant is its growth habit. The two growth habits are determinate and indeterminate.
Determinate tomatoes grow to 3-5' tall, set fruit within 4-6 weeks and then begin to decline. They are a great choice for container gardening. Indeterminate tomatoes are more like a vine, as they grow, flower, and set fruit the entire season. They need a sturdy support and grow best in the ground. For more information about growing this tasty produce, join the UCCE Stanislaus County Master Gardener presentation, ‘Tips for Terrific Tomatoes” on April 20.
Where*: On Zoom. You will receive a link the morning of the class.
When: Tuesday, April 20, 2021 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Register at: http://ucanr.edu/tomato/tips2021
Master Gardener Instructors: Heidi Aufdermaur & Terry Harper