I trundled over to the garden after work the other evening. My car smelled of soil, there were muddy tools piled up in my backseat, jumbled up with empty oil bottles and old napkins. It had rained most of the day, but after dinner the skies cleared and I wanted to shore up my defenses against the recent onslaught of slugs. The warm, damp weather has been perfect for them, but also for seed germination.
In the cool rains of April, it can be weeks before you even see the tip of a sprout. What a difference to May. Just last week I planted some buttercrunch lettuce and broccoli seeds. You can see below that they were up, and looking sturdy.
What’s more, seeds that I had given up on had suddenly decided to sprout after all. Including some leek seeds that were several years old. The dahlia tubers that I bought at NWFGS had transformed from tiny sprouts to thick clusters of new growth.
With the sun and the rain and the warm soil, this is the time of year when plants really start to grow with a capital G. And it’s so much fun for vampire gardeners like us. That’s what my better half and I call ourselves. Our presence at our community garden is so often at twilight, after work…just taking a little time to weed and care for things. Weekends we like to catch up with friends and family.
But as the old farmers say, “the best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow”. So while we’re not at our garden for large chunks of time. We are there for bits at a time. And right now it all becomes worth it
With moving, a new job and re-adjusting kitty to urban life…I haven’t sat down to start seeds until recently. Although it is late in the season to start say… tomatoes, I wanted to grow something. It’s just so much fun to watch those green tips poke out of the soil and turn to viable seedlings in only a few weeks.
One evening after work I sat down with a glass of wine and sorted through all our seed packets. I found corn seeds and decided to start some of those, along with basil (yum!) and an interesting heirloom pie pumpkin. I had to put in a few zinnias as well. I can’t resist their bright colors and tightly woven petals.
I’m so excited for all of them to pop up and I’ll be sure to post updates as they grow. I’ve included a few seed-starting tips below for those of you who are new to this. Just be sure to keep your eye on them. Remember, “the best fertilizer is the farmer’s shadow.”
Seed Starting: A Few Tips
#1: Get some sterile seed starting mix from your local nursery. Yes, it’s more economical to recycle the potting soil from the pot you grew petunias in last summer, but that soil is tired and bereft of nutrients at this point. And although it’s tempting for frugal folks like me to go out in the backyard and dig up some soil…you want something light that won’t compact so pull out your wallet, you’ll be glad you did.
#2: Be sure your seedlings have enough light/warmth. Most of us in the Pacific NW will never get enough light through our windows to give seedlings a good strong start. Get a full spectrum or sun bulb and place it about 4 inches from your seedlings. I use a desk lamp, but really anything goes. As for heating mats, I’ve successfully started seeds without them for many years, but those who have them swear by them. So if you’ve got the extra cash and want to give your seedlings an edge, by all means get a heating mat.
#3: How you water your seedlings will depend on whether you’re using a seed tray with a dome or not. If you’re using a dome, after the initial watering, you can leave your seedlings alone because the moisture is trapped inside the unit. Basically you want to keep the soil moist but not wet. This can cause “damping off” a fungal disease that manifests in wet soil and will decimate your shiny new seedlings. I like to use a spray bottle to water the seedlings, as even a small watering can causes a flood of biblical proportions for tiny seedlings. If you’re not using a dome, check your soil every day to make sure it’s damp. You don’t want it to dry out, but don’t get carried away on the damp either. Once the seedlings have germinated, I recommend taking the dome off, just as a further precaution to prevent damping off.
Hopefully these tips are helpful to you. Are you starting any seeds this year? If so, what kind?
Although I seed most of my vegetables directly into the garden or use store-bought starts, at this time of year when cold winds keep me indoors, I can’t help but want to grow a few things inside. And despite our small apartment, and the mess it makes which my ever-patient husband tactfully ignores, I get a lot of enjoyment out of watching this phenomenon on a daily basis, from the first tiny spears of green poking out of the soil, to the growth of tiny leaves.
This year I’m feeling a bit crafty, as well as longing to bring the outdoors in and so I decided to make some of those newspaper pots that I’ve been seeing around. Pots from free material that I already have lying around, plus recycling? It all sounded pretty great to me. Project!
- Can or other cylindrical item
- Numerous cups of tea or coffee
- A rainy day (very important)
I made use of the excellent tutorial over at Bonzai Aphrodite. It didn’t seem to take long to get the knack of it, and before long I had a dozen new pots.
The final step or step 5 is to tuck the inner flap into the outer one, thereby securing the seam.
I also added a bit of tape to the bottom, just to secure them. Voila!