Getting Down to Earth

Bugs and worms feeding on foliage make ugly holes in them, which interfere with the food-making function of the leaves. If foliage is badly eaten plants will be weakened or may even die.

This, of course, is a very abbreviated explanation. You can enlarge upon it as time goes on.

If the youngster has decided upon something that he cannot buy already started from a nurseryman, he will have to grow it from seed himself, and sometimes an early, inside start is essential. A limited windowsill operation is not too much for the average child if he masters a few simple rules of procedure and is given proper equipment. But certainly he must be forewarned of the hazards inherent in this kind of gardening.

Failure on the windowsill is usually a result of one of the following errors: Planting too much; starting too early; sowing seeds too thickly; using a non-sterile planting medium; or im­proper watering.

Strict attention to the following step-by-step routine should eliminate these dangers:

1.Put a little drainage material in the bottom of the planting receptacle. Broken bits of flowerpots do very well.
2.Fill with sterile planting medium. If using soil, sterilize it by pouring boiling water through it, or bake it in the oven at about 180° for a couple of hours. Both milled spaghnum moss and fine vermiculite (sold under various trade names) are also good sterile planting mediums. Pots may be filled with either of these. Or just an inch of them may be put on top of sterilized soil. Both of these materials cling to tiny roots when they are lifted for transplanting, thus softening the shock of moving.
3.Moisten soil before planting. If you get it too wet at first, let it stand for a day or two before planting, or until it is just crumbly moist.
4.Distribute seeds rather sparsely. Large seeds, where only a few plants are wanted, may be planted in small individ ual pots, which makes later transplanting to the garden very simple.
5.Cover seeds to depth directed on seed packet. Very fine seeds need just a sifting of the planting medium as a cover. Others are covered to a depth of about four times their diameter.
6.Now, gently moisten top soil with a fine spray, taking care not to wash soil off seeds.
7.Cover pots with a piece of glass or a polyethylene bag. The latter material is ideal since it "breathes," and while retarding evaporation, it does not prevent air circulation. Should it cloud up inside, prick a few holes in it. If a glass cover is used be sure to leave a little space uncovered for ventilation.