Dear friends,

How is your garden growing? If you started yours with me a few weeks ago, you may have some leafy lettuce that's almost ready to harvest. Your tomato plants may be about two feet high. The carrot seeds should be sprouting by now. And your pepper plants may have tiny buds on them -- they'll soon break open in white flowers, which will make way for green peppers. Your marigolds may have started flowering and your begonias most certainly will have flowers on. To keep them looking pretty, all you need to do is to keep picking off the flowers. As you do this, the plants will grow more bushy and keep producing more and more flowers.

Please feel free to write me if you have any problems or questions about your garden. I'll try to answer as many as possible.

Meanwhile, if you haven't joined our gardening project yet, now's the time. We're going to start from scratch to grow some carrot and lettuce seeds. Later we'll plant them outside. The lettuce will be used to replace the lettuce that we're about to harvest from your garden. This time, you may want to try a different kind of lettuce.

We'll grow our seedlings in 12-ounce styrofoam cups. You can plant one cup of carrots andone of lettuce. Or you may want to try up to three cups of each. Seeds grown in cups develop strong, healthy roots, provided enough air can get into the soil.

So to make sure this happens, we'll punch holes in the sides of the cups. To do this take a pencil and push the pointed end slowly through the cup until the hole is as thick as the pencil itself.

Make six or seven holes all the way around the cup, about 3/4 of the way up. Do the same again half way up and put four holes around the base about a 1/4 inch up from the bottom. Finally, make one hole in the very bottom.

Now fill the cups to within half an inch of the rim with a seed-starter mix, which you can buy at a garden center.

At the kitchen sink, gently run water into each of the cups until the soil is well soaked. Some water and soil may run out the bottom holes. Poke your finger in the soil about a quarter inch deep. Then drop in the seed and cover it with vermiculite or more of the soil mix.

For lettuce, we'll grow one plant per cup. But to make sure you get a seed that sprouts, you can plant two seeds in each cup. If both sprout, you'll have to snip one off.

Carrots are a little different. You will want to grow three plant per cup. But because carrot seeds are unpredictable, you might want to sow several in each cup, in a circle about half an inch from the edge. Then remove all but three plants before you put them in the garden.

At this time of year you can put the cups indoors or outdoors. If you start them indoors, take them outside after they sprout, so they'll get used to the outside right away. If they put them outdoors, should they be in the shade or the sun?

Water your newly planted seeds by placing the cups in a tray filled with about a quarter-inch of water. The water enters the soil through the holes around the base of the cup. This way the seeds don't get flooded.

One thing to remember. In hot weather the soil can dry out quickly, so you'll need to check your seedlings every day -- twice a day, if it is extremely hot. Sincerely,

Peter Tonge P.S. Next, it's harvest time! We'll pick some lettuce. Later on I'll tell you how to transplant your seedlings from cups to the garden.

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