Friday, March 25, 2016

Seeding towards spring

The vernal equinox was a couple of days ago, which means it's technically spring. You wouldn't know it to look out the window yesterday: snow, snow, wind, and more snow. Still, when all this snow melts (and it will) there are things budding up. I've seen garlic, peonies, and chamomile in our garden. The weeping willows have their early yellow buds and eventually the other trees will come budding along too.

In the meantime: I'm starting seeds indoors. Where I live the estimated last frost is early May. I've marked backwards on my calendar from there and am started different varieties accordingly. Many need 6-8 weeks indoors. The seeds going in the photo above are kept cozy by an electric heating mat. Even the seeds of cool-weather crops like kale or celery will germinate faster with warmer soil temperatures.

If you'd like to start seeds indoors but have never done it before, start with easier varieties. For example vegetables like spinach or tomatoes and flowers like nasturtium or sunflowers.  Google "seed swap" + "your location" to see if you can find someone in your area who will give you some of their seeds. Feel free to download, print out, and use this seed packet template. Seeds will be marked with a year, and although it's generally good to use more recent seeds, if they've been stored in a cool, dry, dark place, you may have luck with seeds 5 years or older. (If you do use older seeds, assume that fewer will germinate and plant more.)

I'm not going to go over all the specifics for starting seeds here because many wonderful and more experienced growers have covered the process at length here, here, and here. My only advice: Don't overwater your seeds! Know that while you can go out and spend as much money as you'd like to build a fancy set-up with grow lights, timers, and heat mats, you can also get pretty good results with a sunny window, well cleaned leftover plastic food containers, and careful attention.

The thrill of seeing those first tiny bits of green pushing through black soil is unparalleled. Once you get the hang of starting plants from seed, you'll have more than you know what to do with. Another opportunity to trade with fellow growers. Good luck and happy spring!