Gardeners sometimes decide to grow their own vegetable or annual flower transplants. They may want to try new or different varieties that are hard to find. Maybe they think they can grow their own transplants and save some money. The bad news is that when it comes to starting plants at home, there are probably more people that fail than succeed. The main causes for failure are incorrect lighting, poor potting mixtures and incorrect growing temperatures.

A good potting medium is necessary for successful transplant production. Do not use garden soil because soil likely has weed seeds and disease organisms. Good potting soil mixtures are readily available that will work fine. Carefully read the information on the package of the seed-starting potting mix that you purchase. Some mixes have nutrients included while others have none. If there are nutrients in the mix, you won't have to use supplemental fertilizer until three to four weeks into the growing process. If the mix does not include fertilizer, you will need to use a soluble plant fertilizer (diluted according to package directions for seedling plants) as soon as the plants start to develop true leaves.

Start seedling plants in a warm location of around 75 to 80 degrees so seeds will germinate quickly and be more uniform. I prefer to use a growing mat when germinating seeds that reaches temperatures around 85. Germinating seeds also need to be kept moist. A plastic wrap covering until seedlings emerge works well. After germination, move the seedlings to a cooler (about 65 degrees) and well-lighted location. This is when problems commonly start with growing plants indoors.

Transplants need good lighting to produce healthy and stocky plants. Plants placed in a window will not get enough light and normally will be spindly. Oftentimes, plants get a disease called "dampening off," which is a fungal disease that kills seedlings. A florescent light left on for 16 hours that is four to six inches from the top of plants works great. You do not need a special "grow light" for quality plants. Regular florescent lights produce about 95 percent as efficient light as expensive "grow lights."

After light and temperature, moisture also is critical for growing transplants. Normally too much moisture can be a problem, instead of too little moisture. Wait until the surface of the mix is dry before adding more water. If possible, water from the bottom and let water soak into the soil mix.

Plants react positively to movement. Brushing over the plants with your hand stimulates them to become stockier and less leggy. Try 20 brushing strokes per day. However, brushing will not compensate for lack of light or overcrowding. Plants grown under inadequate light will be spindly regardless of any other treatment.

By following these recommendations, you will have quality transplants ready for the garden. Growing specific varieties and having them ready when you want them is the ultimate goal for growing your own transplants. A future column will focus on timing to have transplants ready for the garden.

If you have any questions about growing transplants or any other concerns, call David Coltrain at 272-3670 or email

Farm conference

Women have always been an integral part of American agriculture but never more than today. The "Women Managing the Farm Conference" on Feb. 13 and 14 in Manhattan will provide educational and networking opportunities for women involved in key facets of the industry.

The conference, with the theme this year, "The Heart of Agriculture," begins with registration at 8 a.m. on Feb. 13 and adjourns at 2 p.m. on Feb. 14. All activities will be held at Manhattan's Hilton Garden Inn.

The conference also will feature vendor exhibits. For information about sponsorship and exhibit opportunities, call (785) 532-5569.

The early bird registration fee for the conference is $145 prior to Jan. 30. After that date, the registration fee will be $170. More information and online registration is available at A printable registration form also is available at that site. Phone registrations can be made by calling (785) 532-5569 or (800) 432-8222.

For a complete conference schedule and agenda, visit the website.

Junior Sheep Producer Day

Mark your calendar and plan on attending the Kansas Junior Sheep Producer Day on March 29 at Kansas State University's Weber Arena in Manhattan.

The day brings together youth, parents, sheep project leaders and others to increase their knowledge about sheep production and management.

"The event is designed for all ages and skill levels. We work to provide a hands-on learning experience for younger participants," said Kristine Clowers, youth livestock coordinator at K-State.

Registration begins at 8:45 a.m., with the program starting at 9:30 a.m. Featured speakers and K-State faculty and staff will cover such topics as: "Selecting Your Youth Sheep Project," "Facilities, General Care and Health/Vaccination," "Breeds and Sheep Identification," "Shearing and Fitting for the Show," "Nutrition," "Nominations and DNA Hair Sampling" and "Showmanship."

All participants will receive a T-shirt and a complimentary lunch.

The cost to register is $15 per person if postmarked by March 7; $20 if postmarked after that date. Participants who register after March 7 cannot be guaranteed a T-shirt.

For more information, email Kristine Clowers at or Brian Faris at or call (785) 532-1242.

4-H events

* Finney County 4-H Day, Feb. 1, Holcomb High School.

* 4-H Scholarship Information (county and state); Finney County 4-H Foundation Scholarship applications due March 1; Mary Jo Williams Charitable Trust, Finney 4-H $1,000 Scholarship applications due March 1 (applications available soon); Kansas 4-H Foundation Scholarship applications due Feb. 3; scholarship information is available at

* 4-H Cloverbud Club meeting. 6:30 tonight, grandstand meeting room.

* 4-H Junior Leaders meeting, 7:30 tonight, grandstand meeting room.

* 4-H Council meeting, 7 p.m. Monday, 4-H Building.

Volunteer locally

The Kansas 4-H Youth Development Program depends on adult and youth volunteers to help youth gain the five Kansas 4-H life skills of a positive self-concept, an inquiring mind, a concern for the community, healthy interpersonal relationships and sound decision making.

If you have not already contacted the local Extension office you plan to volunteer for, please do so as soon as you can, to obtain the required Kansas 4-H Volunteer Service Application. The completed application is your first step toward volunteering with Kansas 4-H. All Kansas 4-H volunteers must complete the Kansas 4-H Volunteer Information Profile process through their local Extension office to work with Kansas 4-H youth. Your local Extension office will guide you through the VIP process.

The main roles for local volunteers are: community club leader, project leader or activity leader. There are many more roles for volunteers, check with your local club and/or Extension office for more information.

For more information, call Barbara Addison at 272-3670 or email