During winter I spend a lot of time dreaming of seeds and poring over seed catalogs and websites. What crops do I plan to grow this year? What varieties do I want to try? What do I need to do to get my greenhouse cleaned up and ready for the propagation season?
Generally I start seeds for early spring crops in mid to late January, so this is at the forefront of my mind right now. This year Deena and Robbie at Sweet Roots Farm will be growing the bulk of our starts for the Sierra Gardens program, leaving me with more space to grow some perennial herbs and other specialty crops that you might like for your gardens (more on perennial herbs coming in a subsequent blog!).
If any of you are thinking about starting some seeds of your own indoors this winter, here are a few pointers. First of all, you need a warm spot with optimum sunlight. This could be a windowsill or window box, or simply a spot on the floor in front of a sliding glass door. Some people have set ups with special lights because it can be difficult for starts grown in the house to get sufficient sunlight. This is also one reason greenhouses are so useful. You may have experienced your starts growing very elongated because they are reaching for the sun. If you see this happening they probably need more direct light. See if you can find a better place for them. You can also try turning the seedlings regularly to prevent them from stretching too far in one direction.
Always read the information on the seed packet, which gives important information regarding germination times, sowing depth, etc. A pretty good rule of thumb is to plant seeds twice as deep as the thickness of the seed. In some cases this isn’t very deep at all! The first leaves you see when your seed germinates are not true leaves…they are the cotyledons, which eventually shrivel up and drop off as true leaves develop. True leaves will look more like the actual leaves of the plant.
Once seedlings have reached the point of growing their first set or two of true leaves you may want to consider transplanting into a bigger container with more nutrients. The seed contains the basic nutrients necessary to germinate and grow so far, but then it becomes necessary to supplement a little. Most potting soil mixes contain enough nutrients to get your seedlings to the next stage.
Start with something easy….the Brassicas are usually quick to germinate and easy to grow….this family includes kale, broccoli, cabbage and collards as well as greens such as Tat Soi. Make sure your seedlings are in some kind of tray so that you can water freely without ruining your floor or windowsill! If you don’t have seed starting containers laying around you can improvise by using paper cups, egg cartons, etc. Don’t forget to poke a hole for drainage! Give it a try…you will learn something whether you succeed or not!