It's roasting hot outside, but if you're planning your fall garden, you have a challenge. That's because some cool-season annuals and vegetables need really chilly temperatures to germinate. If lettuce and spinach, or pansies and violas, are on your wish list, try sprouting them in the refrigerator.
Place seeds of pansies, violas, even spinach and lettuce, between a folded sheet of moistened paper towel (Be sure to place a label with the plant's name in the towel with them). Carefully slide the moistened paper towels into a plastic zipper bag and place the bag on a flat surface in the fridge. In 3 or 4 days, roots will begin to appear from the seeds. At this point you can gently plant the sprouted seeds individually in small pots. Place the pots in a cool, sunny spot on a windowsill or in the garden. Keep them watered and watch them grow. Your plants will be garden-ready in 6-8 weeks.
Looking for a more traditional approach to sowing cool germinating seeds? Use small, shallow containers like tomato or strawberry clam shells from the grocery store. Fill them 1/3 full with a seed-sowing medium, such as Miracle-Gro® Seed Starting Potting Mix and sprinkle the pansy or viola seeds on the surface. Cover the containers with a sheet of moistened newspaper to provide the darkness and moisture the seeds need to sprout. Then place the containers in the refrigerator.
Check on the seeds every 3 days. Keep the soil and newspaper moist but not soggy. The seeds will quickly begin to sprout roots. Take the containers out of the fridge as soon as you see evidence of root growth. The roots will be tiny white shoots sprouting from the pointed end of the seed. Place your containers in a cool, sunny spot until the seedlings have 3 leaves. At this point, they can be transplanted into small pots.
Keep new transplants shaded on the north side of the house or under a shade tree until they sprout several more leaves. At this point, they can be gradually brought into brighter light. As temperatures begin to moderate in late September and October, the plants can be placed into their winter position in the garden.