Does My Homeowners Insurance Cover My Plants? And a Bonus…Our Own Matt Briggs’ Successful Gardening Secrets for CNY, Part I.

April 27, 2012

A car goes off the road and strikes the flowerbed in front of your house.  Is there coverage on your homeowners’ insurance policy to replace the flowers?   The answer is yes, there is some coverage and here’s how it works. 

Your homeowners’ policy covers for trees, plants, or shrubs on your premises for the following perils: fire or lightening, explosion, riot or civil commotion, aircraft, vehicles not owned or operated by a resident of the residence premises, vandalism or malicious mischief, or theft. 

The limit is not more than 5% of the dwelling coverage for all trees, shrubs, and plants and not more than $500 for any one tree, shrub, or plant.  So if the vehicle that strikes your garden is driven by someone other than a resident of your house, your homeowners’ policy will respond. 

And now, Commercial Lines Account Manager Matt Briggs, our very own gardening expert, tells us how to create strong plants by properly preparing the seeds.


Strong Seeds for Strong Plants 

It’s that time of year!  Time to start thinking about our springtime garden projects.  Or if you’re like me, you had seeds started 3 weeks ago.  In all reality, unless you have a mild gardening obsession, now is the perfect time to start seeds for some varieties which need a long warm growing season.  The three big ones for me are Tomatoes, Peppers and Pumpkins.  Watermelons also need long growing seasons but they don’t like being transplanted so I don’t start them inside. 

To start seeds inside, you first have to be able to keep them alive long enough and strong enough to plant them out around the last week in May.  Seeds need warmth to germinate but then like it a bit cooler while the seedlings are growing, this keeps them shorter and stockier, which is beneficial for their survival when you do put them in the garden.  I use the red plastic party cups. They are cheap and of a good enough size to go from seed to garden.  You need to punch a few holes in the bottoms of the cups.  A medium sized drill bit makes it a snap, and you can stack the cups to do multiple cups at a time. 

Next you need a good potting mix.  Do not use anything with the word soil on it.  It is too heavy and not conducive to seedlings.  They need light airy material that drains well but retains moisture for a long time.  Potting mixes work well, Pro Mix has a good reputation amongst commercial growers if you can find it.  They had some over at North Star Orchards last time I was over there.  You want to moisten your potting mix; I use a big empty tote, dump the potting mix in, and then start adding glasses of water and mixing it around until it is evenly moist.  It should feel like a damp sponge, not soggy. 

Fill your plastics cups about 2/3 with the potting mix and then make a small hole with a pen or pencil.  Place one seed per cup – don’t worry – most will germinate, and if you have a couple that don’t, you can always throw another seed in there in another week.  Gently cover the seeds and very lightly pack the potting mix down a little.  When watering your seedlings, you need to wet them carefully so you don’t wash the seed around.  A spray bottle works best in this situation, just soak the top a bit (the mix is already moist) and cover with plastic wrap.  If you have nursery trays from years past, or other boxes or trays, you can cover a whole tray of cups with one sheet of plastic wrap.  You don’t need to water these any more until they sprout. 

While waiting for seeds to sprout, you need to keep them warm, like in the 65-70 degree range.  I put them on a bench near one of my old cast iron radiators and they sprout in about 2-3 days almost every time.  Once the first few seedlings sprout, you should remove the plastic wrap.  You can uncover the whole batch, or you could mix and match multiple trays if some need a little more time to sprout.  But usually the ones which haven’t sprouted yet, really have, they just haven’t popped through the dirt yet. 

Next you need ample sun and a cool breeze to strengthen those seedlings over the next few weeks.  A sunny south facing window is good, a south facing Bay window is better, and a south facing 3 season sun room is the next best thing to a greenhouse.  In some instances if you lack the natural sunlight necessary, supplemental light can be had through cheap fluorescent shop lights at a reasonable price.  That is a whole other topic though.  Now, until you plant them out, you want to bottom water your seedlings (remember the holes you put in the bottom of the cups?) and one lesson I have learned, do not overwater.  With a good potting mix, it will be unlikely you need to water more than once every 4-5 days.  Many of you will only need to water every 7-9 days.  When your cups feel light and the soil looks dry fill a deep pan or cookie sheet with 2-3 inches of water.  Place as many cups into the water as you can fit into the pan and let them sit for 30 minutes.  They will wick water up into the potting mix.  Remove them and set on a drying rack with a towel underneath or on something that they can drain out a little bit.  Then put them back in your sunny spot. 

The finishing touches is to put an oscillating fan on them on low power.  This stresses the stems and the plants focus their energy on creating a fatter, stronger stem instead of reaching up for more light.  It also keeps the surface drier to prevent a common seedling problem called damping off.  Keeping the temperature lower is also better, 55-65 is ideal, as warmer temps mean faster growth and surprisingly faster growth is not all that desirable at this point, we really just want to toughen up the top of the plant while it focuses on root growth under the surface. 

My next installment will discuss prepping the garden beds and hardening off seedlings.  

 Matt Briggs