Starting Seeds

ChiloquinNews article 3/21/11

Now is the time to be starting seeds, but I have not been able to get up much enthusiasm after a solid month of cold gray weather. The seed catalogs are always so compelling with the wonderful photos of luscious looking vegetables, and bright red watermelons, but I find that the actual growing of those seeds is not such a simple thing.

There are a couple of requirements that are not easy to meet. The seeds need warm soil to germinate. I don’t know about you, but my house has not been at an even 700 these last few weeks. The solution is a heating pad, but they are quite expensive to buy.  The seeds also need lots of light once they have germinated. Even if you had a sunny window to put them in, the days have been so dark lately that it would not have been enough.  The solution to this one is a fluorescent lighting system, the cost of which makes the heating pad look quite reasonable. Then, they need humidity, which is solved by putting a clear cover over the seed beds, but then you have to be very careful that it doesn’t get so humid that the seeds either rot before they germinate, or the young seedlings die from fungus infections.

I don’t mean to sound discouraging.  I’m sure it’s the miserable weather that’s coloring my attitude this week, but this year I am going to let someone else do all the hard work and buy my seedlings at the farmer’s market. The only disadvantage to this is that you may not find that exact variety you had your heart set on to try this year. If that’s the case, then better bite the bullet and get out the heating pad and lights.

There are a few seedlings though that you really should plant from seeds. These are those that can be direct seeded into the ground when the weather warms up – peas, beans, carrots. These 3 do not do well if they are transplanted, The same is true of melons, squash and corn, but given our notoriously short summers, you can start them in pots inside in June and then get them out into the ground as soon as they have a couple of leaves. Whatever you do, don’t buy these in 6-packs when they have obviously become root bound. In fact, don’t buy any seedlings that look root bound. They won’t thrive.  But for broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, tomatoes, and even lettuce and spinach, farmer’s market, here I come!

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