At this time of year, with a few days of sunshine under my belt I start to get a hankering for a nice thick seed catalogue. I daydream about the multitudes of tasty vegetables and neatly planted flowers that will tastefully adorn my garden beds.
After reviewing my Christmas visa bill, my new garden purchases this year will come mainly in the form of seeds, which is actually not as bleak as it sounds.
Seeds are one of the most rewarding ways of populating your garden. Not only is it cost effective, it gives you a sense of accomplishment. Even with my negligent style of garden care, I am able to produce germinating magic.
The tiny shrivelled bit of organic material transforms in to a glorious living organism a simple magic act that rivals anything you can see in Vegas. Here are some simple steps to increase your germination success.
Choose your seed carefully – Make sure you are using fresh seeds.
They do have a shelf life. I like to rotate my seeds every three years. I sprinkle out the older seeds into a surprise garden bed. Never know what I’ll end up with there. Store them in a cool dry place.
Read your seed packet carefully and check days to germination and when you can place your seeds out.
It is not helpful if you have tons of seedlings growing lanky in your living room in February and have to wait until April to put them out.
Timing is key. You can place many of the seedlings out after the last day of frost…this is a guess. The last day of frost tends to be between March 30th and April 30th in a zone 7 garden, but there are exceptions.
If you take a chance and plant out your seedlings and the weather person is calling for frost, place out newspaper or remay on top of your little plants for protection. Some seedlings need a certain temperature like tomatoes.
So read before you seed.
Once you’ve done the math and are ready to seed move on to the next step.
Assemble your utensils. You’ll need a soilless mixture such as sunshine #1 mix or the like. Do not use soil of your garden as it carries a lot of weed seeds which will probably germinate a lot faster than the seeds you bought.
I like to use those little peat pucks which you can re-animate in water, you don’t need pots for these. Add little pots if you’re not a fan of the pucks and a tray with a lid. I prefer a higher lid…buys me a bit more time.
If you are really keen you can get a seed heating mat. You’ll also need a large bucket to place the soil in, where you will crumble it and add moisture or in my case a Tupperware to re-animate the peat pucks.
You will also need labels. Don’t skip this last step. You won’t remember what they are, trust me.
Place 2-3 seeds per pot or puck onto the moist soil. Use your thumb or the end of a glass to press them into the soil. You can sprinkle a bit of the soilless mixture onto the top if you have some. Some folks like to use sand or chicken grit to sprinkle onto the top of the soil.
Place your little seed pots onto the tray and add the lid. Place in a sunny spot where they will get the maximum amount of light. I have mine in my living room window giving my house that special grow-op ambience.
Add water to the tray and use a mister to water the surface of the pots as needed. Maintain an even moisture. Not all will germinate. If they do, pinch out the smallest. Wait until you are crabby before you do this. It helps.
Or get one of your cold hearted friends to do it for you if you are going to be a baby about it.
Once your little seedlings have germinated and have their true leaves and have started to outgrow their lid remove it and make sure you pay special attention to their watering. Adding water to the bottom is best and make sure you have good air circulation.
When your seedlings are big enough to move outside, make sure you harden them off for a few days by placing outside during the day and moving them inside during the evening. Then you can try leaving them outside with a cover or under the overhang of your house for a couple of days more.
You will have too many seedlings for your garden, pot up the rest and give as gifts. It will bring a smile to the face of the giftee!