In the spring of the year it's easy to get pretty much whatever seedlings you want for your garden from nurseries or garden centers everywhere, but the supply dries up fast soon afterwards. So where does that leave you when you have harvested, say, lettuce from your garden and you want to get something else growing in the now vacant space?
Well, you could sow some more lettuce in the same space, or some carrots, or maybe a bean or two. But if you've planned ahead, you could also plant an established seedling that you started a couple of weeks earlier. That way you would be independent of the garden center, and you won't have to wait very long before you harvest your next crop.
Here's one of the better ways to grow seedlings for transplanting:
Take a Styrofoam drinking cup and punch four or five holes around the base for drainage.
Now slit the cup down two opposite sides all the way to the base, but not through the base.
Put a rubber band around the top of the cup to hold the two cut sides closed and fill it with potting soil.
Water well and let the cup drain before sowing a lettuce seed or whatever else you want to grow. Until the seed has germinated, it is best to keep the soil moist by gently spraying the surface every day. After that, I prefer watering the seedlings from the bottom up. You do this by placing the cup in a tray or dish and filling it with water. The soil will soak up the water through the bottom drainage holes. Leave water in the tray for about 15 minutes, then throw out any that is left over.
Finally, when it comes time to plant the seedling in the garden bed or tub, simply take off the rubber band, open out the sides, and you can lift out the seedling without distrubing any roots.
You can also use the bottom half of a cardboard milk carton or orange juice carton to make a great seedling cup. In this case, because the carton is square, cut each corner down to the bottom. An elastic band will hold this closed, too, or you could tie it with a piece of string.
At planting time, the sides of these containers fold down flat and it's even easier to take out the seedling.
Fifth in a series of articles for children on container gardening projects. Next week: How to grow lettuce in a flower pot.