On Seeds & Schedules
It’s early March. Do you know where your seeds are? Mine have been arriving in spurts as each different supplier gets them shipped to me. My two favorite sources for seeds are Renee’s Garden Seeds and Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I think I should be ashamed to admit to you that I’ve got more than 35 packets of seeds in my storage box and more on the way, but I’m rather addicted to seed starting. If you’ve ever started your own seeds, you’ve probably gotten hooked too.
With a small bench in a greenhouse currently at my disposal, getting seeds started is easier than ever. Three weeks ago I started my ‘Frontier’ onions, and they’ve done a tremendous job popping their long skinny necks up out of the flats. When I start seeds, I fill my packs or flats with a very loose germination mix and soak it thoroughly with a gentle mist from the hose before sowing the seeds. By soaking the soil/media first, the seeds don’t get clumped into groups by water droplets from overhead watering, and they start off with a wealth of moisture to get them happy and growing.
My seeds tend to germinate much more quickly than the seed packet says thanks to a rather homemade system for keeping them in a perfect little pocket of moisture and warmth. I use one of those flimsy flats that hold pots at the commercial greenhouse and invert it over the tray holding my seeds. Then I cover the whole thing in clear plastic, sealing in and protecting the little seeds against drying out or getting hit by any chilly drafts. The need to water them is cut in half, which is hugely helpful considering seeds need fairly constant and even moisture to germinate. If you’re going to give this system a shot, just be sure to use the kind of flats that have big openings in them so that plenty of light can still get through to your seedlings when they start popping up their heads.
I typically leave this little incubator system in place for about a week after the first signs of germination since the seeds have headroom thanks to the inverted flat keeping the plastic off of them. After that first week’s growth though, I take the plastic and inverted flat off the seed tray to let the seedlings have the maximum amount of light possible as they get their photosynthetic wheels turning.
As I mentioned in the post about my garden layout for the coming season, I have a lot of crops I want to grow and the vast majority of them are being started from seed. Seed starting is not a once-and-done deal; each crop requires a different timeline, both in sowing and in transplanting. Adding to the challenge is the fact that I want to do succession plantings in my garden this year, both in the form of multiple sowings of a particular crop (i.e., string beans) and of switching out a spring harvested crop for a summer or fall harvested crop (i.e., sugar snap peas and summer squash).
To accomplish this intricate dance of the seeds, I’ve created several spreadsheets, have a calendar I write notes on, and have organized my seeds in a box by sowing month. Keeping the whole ball of yarn from unraveling is a very basic schedule (pictured here) that says when I’m supposed to sow the seed and when it gets transplanted into the garden. By planning in so much detail and so far in advance, I’m pretty confident that healthy plants will get into the ground where and when they need to and hopefully it’ll be a very productive year as a result. I’m already planning loads of recipes for the French melons, pattypan squash and ground cherries (as well as all the rest)!
Oh, and yes, I realize this is a food blog…or at least it used to be. If you are not a gardener (in spirit or in act) and you are getting fed up with all this crazy plant talk, I apologize. Please bear with me as I sooth my cabin fever with thoughts of spring. I promise there are new recipes coming soon! How does Celeriac & Ginger Soup sound for starters? Stay tuned!!