Planting flowers in winter gives you a jump start on spring planting.
image by Photos by Dwight Sipler; Flickr.com
Planting flowers in winter or spring is a good way to get a head start on a spring flower garden. Just like picking up plants at a nursery, you can grow your own flowers and have them ready to go right into the garden. How far ahead you plant depends on the type of plant and how big you want the plants to be when you transplant them. Many varieties can be grown to full bloom and transplanted. Others have to be started in the containers they will live in all summer long.
Determine Start Dates
Determine the frost-free date for your area. Consult a freeze/frost map for approximate dates. Local county extension websites usually have the information as well.
Find the germination time and the length of time from germination to bloom by consulting the information given on your seed packets.
Add the germination time to the bloom time, and subtract the total from the frost-free date for your area to give an approximate seed starting date. Do this for each type of flower being planted.
Germinate the Seeds
Mark a plastic bag with the date and flower type you are sowing.
Fold a paper towel in half. Soak it with water until it will not absorb any more.
Spread seeds on a paper towel about an inch apart. Fold another paper towel in half, lay it over the seeds and saturate it with water. Fold both towels in half, and place them in a plastic bag. Seal the bag, but leave some air in it.
Place the plastic bag in a warm location. The top of a refrigerator is often good. If seeds need light to germinate, put them under a light or where the sun will hit the bag.
Wait the minimum number of days to germination, and remove the paper towels from the plastic. Look to see if the seeds are beginning to sprout. They must just show a tiny foot off one side or perhaps a short shoot. Seeds that have germinated should be planted right away.
Sow the Seeds
Place seed-starting soil in a bucket, and begin adding water. Hand mix the medium as you add water until you can just squeeze a few drops of water from a handful.
Place seed-starting soil in cells in starting flats. Fill the cells to within 1/2 inch of the top.
Plant germinated seeds at a depth equal to twice their diameter, or use the seed packet for a reference. Cover with a damp medium. Cover the flats with the plastic covers. Label the cells using popsicle sticks and permanent marker.
Place the covered seed flats under a fluorescent light fixture, with the light two inches above the flat covers. Program a light timer to run the light fixture for 18 hours of light, 6 hours of dark. Do not disturb the light cycle by turning the light on when it should be off.
Remove the plastic covers after the sprouts break the soil. Keep 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of the flats for a week. After the first week, begin feeding the plants a 1/10th strength solution of a fertilizer like Miracle Grow. Keep the soil moist, but not dripping.
Fertilize the plants with rooting fertilizer after three weeks to stimulate root growth. As the flowers grow, move the light to keep it just above the plants, about 2 inches.
Harden the plants before transplanting. Move the flats outdoors for a few hours in a shady, wind- protected location. Over a week, gradually move them into the sun, and leave them out for longer periods.
Transplant the flowers to their permanent locations once the danger of frost has passed.
About this Author
Michael Logan is a writer, editor and web page designer. His professional background includes electrical, computer and test engineering, real estate investment, network engineering and management, programming and remodeling company owner. Logan has been writing professionally since he was first published in "Test & Measurement World" in 1989.