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Sow, Now’s the Time

Starting plants from seed is one of the most exciting and rewarding gardening activities. Growing seed is not complicated, it just requires a little thought and care. For best results, it is important to use fresh seed and follow the instructions on each seed packet which include specific planting tips, light source requirements and watering specifications. So grab a selection of your favorite seeds from annuals, to perennials to herbs & veggies -- and start from seed!

What you'll need:

  • Your choice of fresh seed packets
  • Clean pots or seed trays with drainage holes (egg cartons & Styrofoam cups work too but be sure to create a drainage hole). We recommend using seed starting supplies from Jiffy.
  • Seed starting mix. We recommend Black Gold Seed Starter Potting Mix.
  • Plastic spoon and or pencil - to make a hole for seed.
  • Jiffy seed starter greenhouse. This will allow the soil to heat up faster and help germinate the seed.
  • Plant labels and/or markers.
  • Light source such as a bright window or a grow light
  • Water

Sowing the Seed:

  • Read seed package for special instructions.
  • Start the seeds about 8-weeks before the last expected frost date. In Hampton Roads, that is about April 15.
  • Label containers with seed type.
  • Fill pots or trays with seed starter mix to about 1 cm below the rim of container.
  • Plant seed. For small seed, sprinkle on top of starting mix and for large seed push into mix until just covered (soil depth depends on seed type).
  • Cover seeds with a thin layer of starting mix - approx. ¼ inch deep (do not cover very fine seed).
  • Water

Finishing Touches:

  • Place pots or trays inside your seed starting greenhouse or use a large, loose plastic bag or cover with cling wrap to keep seeds warm and moist until germination.
  • Place in a warm, well lit area -- out of direct sunlight as it warms up.
  • If potting soil begins to dry out, remove cover and water gently.

Transplanting Seedlings:

  • When seedlings are 2-3 inches tall, transplant to a larger container for continued growth.
  • To transplant, fill the new container with pre-moistened mix and gently press the mix around the transplanted seedling and water to settle soil.
  • Plant seedlings in garden when the weather has warmed into the 50 degree range at night. Remember to acclimate the seedlings to outdoor life by slowly exposing them to sunlight in order to minimize stress on the plant.
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Start from Seeds

When starting seeds indoors, the goal is to have hearty seedlings by the time it's warm enough to plant outdoors. Here's some tips to get started:

Choosing the Right Container
You can start seeds in almost any kind of container that will hold 1 to 2 inches of starting medium and has holes for drainage.

Seed-Starting and Potting Mixes
Seeds contain enough nutrients to nourish themselves through sprouting, so a seed-starting mix does not have to contain nutrients. It should be free of weed seeds, retain moisture, and provide plenty of air spaces. We recommend using a seed starting mix or McDonald All Purpose Potting Soil.

Sowing Seeds
The package instructions will give you details for spacing, however, here are a few rules of thumb:

  • Space large seeds at least 1 inch apart, planting 2 or 3 seeds in each pot (snip off the weaker seedlings later).
  • Plant medium-sized seeds ½ to 1 inch apart, and tiny seeds about ½ inch apart.
  • If you’re sowing only a few seeds, use your fingertips or tweezers to place them precisely.
  • Cover the seeds to a depth of three times their thickness by carefully sprinkling them with light, dry potting soil or seed-starting medium.
  • Be sure to label the seeds so that you know what you have planted.

Each packet of seeds will offer a germination time frame and that is the how long it will take the seeds to sprout. The packet will also recommend a time frame when planting the seeds indoors. Remember, here in Hampton Roads, the average last frost date is April 15 and you shouldn’t plant tender seedlings outdoors until after that date.

If you have any questions on this process, please see one of our experts at any McDonald Garden Center.

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We’re Dreaming of… Tomatoes


Yes, will admit we’re tomato obsessed. And, even though it’s freezing cold outside and it’s still a few months before you’ll start your seed, you’re probably already dreaming about those red, juicy tomatoes and wondering which ones you’ll grow this season. No matter what the variety — plum, beefsteak, heirloom or grape — tomatoes are perfect for sprucing up a main dish, tossed in salads or simply eaten fresh off the vine! Here’s one tomato you’ll want to add to your garden this season:

Tomato Old Virginia Red – This heirloom from the Giltner family is old time sweet/ tart tomato. With dark red, smooth fruits this tomato has very few seeds. The 5-6 ft tall plants produce even in a long hot summer. This tomato has good yields and flavor.


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