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. Phone 483-7403, fax 483-6214 or email

Seed-starting workshop offered

By: Richard Gast, Cornell Ag Connection

---- — “Winter had lasted so long that it seemed it would never end.” 

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote those words in her book, The Long Winter, a novel about enduring the winter of 1880-81 in the Dakota Territory. In the book, Ingalls Wilder describes a winter so cold, snowy and relentless that the Chicago and North Western Railway was forced to stop trains from running until the spring thaw finally left the tracks passable again. This left their hometown of Tracy with precious little food or fuel and compelled her future husband, young Almanzo, and his friend, Cap Garland, to risk their lives on a perilous trip across the prairie in search of a store of wheat that they weren’t sure even existed and delaying her family Christmas until May.

In much of the country, this has been a persistent winter too, one for the record books with the North Country being no exception. As I began writing this, I’d just finished cleaning up from the recent storm (and I’m fairly certain that my road and driveway are going to be drifted shut when I get home from work this evening). What’s more, it looks like it’s going to be another below zero night tonight. I can’t remember a previous March where temperatures have fallen to 10 degrees below zero (or more) in the morning. Can you?

Many of the winter sports enthusiasts that I know are jumping for joy, excitedly anticipating a season of spring downhill and cross-country skiing and snowsledding, while most of the gardeners I speak with are singing the blues, longing to get their hands into the soil and dreaming of daffodils, tulips, rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries. And, even if it is snowing or below zero outside, they are preparing for the growing season right now.

Starting vegetable and flower gardens from seeds, indoors, can be a very satisfying experience, not to mention a lot of fun. And you’d be hard pressed to find a better way to overcome the boredom of winter and cabin fever.

Starting seeds early, indoors, is also a way to extend the growing season, which allows discriminating gardeners to either choose varieties that require a longer growing season than ours would normally allow, or to opt for strains that mature more quickly in order 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 say, 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 would-be green thumbs who became discouraged after doing so, only to see all or most of their seedlings suffer, get leggy and eventually die. If you’re one of those folks, or if you’re a beginner who’d like to get a handle on successfully starting garden plants from seeds at home, Franklin County Cornell Cooperative Extension, in cooperation with Bonesteel’s Garden Center, is having a Seed Starting Workshop.

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

The workshop will be held Saturday, April 5, from 10 a.m. to noon at Bonesteel’s Gardening Center (in the greenhouse), 2689 State Route 11, North Bangor. The cost is $10. 

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

The workshop will cover a wide variety of topics including 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, keeping your flower and vegetable seedlings healthy and getting your plants ready to be planted outdoors.

Each attendee will sow several pots with their favorite vegetable and/or flower seeds, which they will take home, along with several instructional handouts and a greater understanding of how to 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.

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, N.Y., 12953. Call 483-7403, fax 483-6214 or email