February 24, 2013

Heirloom-seed workshop offered

Richard Gast

---- — On Feb. 2, my favorite meteorologist, the world-renowned weather predicting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, saw his shadow, which means spring will be arriving early this year.

For some North Country gardeners, that means seed-starting time is here. Well, okay, not quite yet. But those committed to getting an early start are preparing for the growing season. They are among the region’s most enthusiastic gardeners, and they are looking forward to starting their gardens indoors.

Starting seeds indoors is convenient, practical and an easy way to get a jump on the season. But it can also be considerably less expensive than buying starter plants. In fact, one starter plant can cost just as much as, or more than, a whole packet of seeds. And starting plants from seeds allows gardeners to select the cultivars they prefer, including varieties that are never offered at big-box stores and rarely sold at garden centers or nurseries.

It’s also a way to extend the season, allowing gardeners to choose varieties that require a longer growing season than ours would normally allow. Some may opt for strains that mature more quickly as well, because selecting cultivars that don’t need to be started indoors allows growers to be just a few weeks away from harvest when others are setting out small, immature transplants. What’s more, by starting early maturing plants at 10-day intervals, not only can proficient gardeners be the first to harvest, they can continue to harvest over prolonged periods of time.

Unfortunately, less-experienced gardeners are sometimes intimidated by the thought of starting their gardens from seeds indoors. Over the years, I’ve chatted with several who became discouraged after seeing their seedlings suffer, get leggy and die.

If you’re one of those folks, if starting plants from seeds has been a struggle in the past, or if you’re a beginner who’d like to get a handle on starting garden plants from seeds at home, Franklin County Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener volunteers would like to invite you to attend a Seed Starting Workshop designed to help you and your garden flowers and vegetables get off to a great start.

The Master Gardeners will have all the necessary supplies on hand, including heirloom tomato seeds. All you have to do is get there.

Learn how, with some simple techniques and inexpensive start-up supplies, you can easily get your favorite flower and vegetable varieties started indoors, and keep them thriving with minimal effort.

The workshop will be on Saturday, March 16, from 10:30 a.m. to noon at a  location to be announced somewhere in or near Saranac Lake. We’ll post the location on our website ( or

The cost is $10. Kits for creating a simple, practical, easy-to-assemble grow-light stand will be available for $15.

For registration and information, call Cornell Cooperative Extension at 483-7403 or email

This program, which is being offered in cooperation with Common Ground Garden, a project of Adirondack Sustainable Communities Inc., currently managing two community garden sites in Saranac Lake, will cover a wide variety of topics. These include seed selection including how to read seed packages and which flowers and vegetables should and should not be started early indoors, containers for starting seeds, soil medium selection, timing, watering, fertilization, lighting including a demonstration of how to easily fabricate a grow-light stand, keeping flower and vegetable seedlings healthy, and getting plants ready to be planted outdoors.

Each attendee will sow several pots with heirloom tomato seeds, which they will take home, along with several instructional handouts and a greater understanding of how to effectively start flowers and vegetables from seed and keep growing seedlings and young plants healthy, hardy and vigorous until they are planted outdoors. Gardeners of all experience levels are welcome.

Master Gardener volunteers will also be available to answer questions about garden planning. Through this type of education and community outreach, our Master Gardeners are helping Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County live up to its mission of building strong and sustainable New York communities.

Richard L. Gast, Extension program educator II, Horticulture, Natural Resources, Energy; agriculture programs assistant, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County, 355 West Main St., Suite 150, Malone, 12953. Call 483-7403, fax 483-6214 or email