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BellaOnline's Natural Living Editor

Starting Seeds

March is a great time to starting planning your garden for the summer. If you are starting from seeds, March is often the time to do so. There's nothing better than the hopeful feeling you get from dreaming and creating what your garden will look like on warmer days. This article will provide some easy and helpful tips.

1. Determine your growing zone by going to the government's website at the USDA and looking at the color coded map. The colored map will tell you what zone you are in. This will determine when you can plant outside safely without the danger of frost.

2. Now determine where your garden will be. Is your space facing the north, south, east, or west? Do you have a bright sunny spot or mostly shade? Some plants thrive in a full south sun, some like the shade, and some like a combination. Also, determine whether you will plow a garden patch, use raised beds, or find containers. Make sure the location is good for the plants you'd like to grow, nothing is more frustrating than planting something that loves the sun in a shady area and seeing the plant flounder.

3. Once you have your place and location determined, find plants you enjoy growing. If you want to start from seed, research the germination period. As a general rule, seeds can be sown indoors six to eight weeks prior to the last frost date.

4. Another interesting concept is companion planting. The idea is that you can group a certain set of plants together to repel insects and increase productivity, among other things.

5. Once you decide what you'll be planting and if are planting from seeds, you'll want to prep an area for seed production. Use a seed starting kit or you can recycle an egg container. Fill the containers with soil and water the soil before placing the seeds in the dirt. Follow the specific instructions on the seed packet. Cover the seed tray in plastic wrap to create a warm environment. Once seedlings have emerged, remove the plastic wrap. Place them in a sunny south facing window or use grow lights. When watering, mist with a spray bottle, as not to drown the seedlings. If it's not time to plant outdoors yet and the seedlings get big, transplant into a bigger pot. Once the days get warmer, harden off your new plants. Leave the plants outside for a few hours each day. After a week, leave the plant outside overnight.

6. Now it's time to plant your new flowers or vegetables in the location that best suits them. Here's hoping the plants give you a bountiful harvest.

The fun and excitement that planning a garden gives a gardener in the depths of winter cannot be overlooked. Hope is a beautiful thing, warmer days are ahead.

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