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Gardener's Notebook: Cucumbers for Easter?

Mom checked her seedlings continually as if they were babies
Time to start bedding plants for summer gardens. (File Photo)

YORKTON - We were visiting some very dear friends the other day and were delighted to see that they had cucumbers growing in a container on their sunny windowsill. Last year these wonderful gardeners had cucumbers to enjoy by Easter time, and so it was just great to see that wonderful planting again this year! I hope that they will be able to enjoy fresh, home-grown cucumber sandwiches in a few weeks.

It made me think back to the days when Mom used to start her bedding plants in the spring. She started many plants: tomatoes, peppers, marigolds, petunias, and always something new and interesting that she spotted in the seed catalogues. It was always so much fun to start the plants. First came cutting milk cartons in half and filling them with fragrant soil. Then came the seeding. I can see my Mom’s cozy kitchen so clearly, the kitchen table spread with the containers filled with soil, awaiting the seeds for the coming season.

After they were planted, they were all carefully labelled, then watered. Mom always watered the soil gently with a teaspoon so as not to disturb the soil from the seeds. It was such a labor of love for her that it never seemed like too much work to take these extra little steps. Once everything was watered, the containers were placed on a tray or in a flat box, covered with a plastic bag, then slid under the bed in the spare room, giving the seeds a warm and dark spot to begin sprouting. After a few days, the daily checks began to see if any sprouts were emerging from the soil. What excitement when the green stems began arching their backs from the soil! At that time, the container was brought out into the light, and then the real work began.

Mom checked her seedlings continually as if they were babies. They were turned several times each day to prevent them leaning into the light. Because Mom had a lot of plants, my handy Dad constructed a tall table that fit just under the windowsill, so that all the plants were at window height. Mom never had grow lights, so common now. She would turn and rotate those containers so that the small seedlings each got an equal share of sun. And then, as the weather warmed, everybody got moved to the little greenhouse that was Mom’s little heaven on earth. There, they got turned and were in a rotation again to get equal sun, equal fresh air, and of course were carefully watered and kept warm until the happy day when they could be planted out. These are such happy memories for me!

The mystery for many gardeners is: when to plant these bedding plants? Planting them too early could result in leggy plants that are weak and spindly; planting them too late makes them small and fragile when they go into their garden home. The common rule seems to be to start them about six weeks before the last expected frost. You can find out a “guess-timate” last frost at . There are many advantages to starting your own seeds. You plant exactly what you want to grow. In many cases it is cheaper to start your own plants, depending on how many bedding plants you want to grow. It is also very satisfying to go from seed to seedling to garden plant. But these tender plants do take your time and attention, so every gardener must decide if this is the method they want to use. Either way, we are now looking ahead to spring!

Thank you to our friends at YTW for their great hard work in all kinds of weather! Find out what’s new with the hort society at Have a great week!