Oh my, lovely gardeners. What an exciting time to be alive! I’ve seen the sandhill cranes return to the fields and can hear the blackbirds trilling along my garden edges. They are all letting us know spring is here.
Well, that is the kind of excitement right now I’d like to focus on. Nature is the safest thing for us to be socializing with right now, and if we are still enough, we can hear it socializing right back at us.
It is letting us know the time is here to start our garden preparations in earnest. The time is near to do some handshakes with the soil and snuggle some seeds in our hands before sitting back and watching them grow.
I’ve been reading a book about seeds (because that is the exciting kind of night life I have), and let me tell you, there are wonders upon wonders to be learned from them.
Consider this: they are little biological containers of a baby plant that has packed its own lunch until it’s time to move out into the world. That’s the basics of a seed!
Some seeds have packed a really big lunch so they can survive years and years on end. Others, just a little snack so they can get to growing right away.
Some seeds require hardship in order to start growing, such as prairie seeds that depend on annual fires to germinate. Others can lie dormant for years, such as a water lotus that can be napping for 1,000 years before it’s time to grow. Not only that, they are equipped to travel great distances through the air, water, or land via animal transport. Yeah, burrs, sticking all over my clothes, dogs, and sheep, they are expert hitchhikers for traveling.
About 10,000 years ago, us silly homo sapiens decided we could take full control of nature by planting seeds for more reliable food sources. No more foraging for us! We were going to plant those seeds, enjoy those grains, and develop cities, states, and nations.
Maybe it didn’t escalate quite that quickly, but seeds are at the heart of our civilization. There is a beauty to the fact that here we are, however many tens of thousands of years after the agricultural revolution, still finding seeds, placing them in the earth, and waiting for them to grow and reward us.
Seed starting can be as simple as pie or as complex as pi. There are whole books dedicated to just seed starting. (Yes, I’ve read those as well. I tell you, I am non-stop excitement).
I find, time and time again, all kinds of methods work. Most of the plants we cherish for our gardens germinate easily under a multitude of conditions. My favorite go-to are the small plastic butter and cottage cheese containers (after they’ve been well washed, of course). Poke some holes in the bottom and use the lids as trays and, viola, you have a perfect little seed starters.
Fill the containers with sterile seed-starting mix and plop your seeds in. I’m a big fan of less is more. We plant 2-3 seeds for each plant we want, making sure to thin out if all 3 germinate. Put some plastic wrap over to keep the humidity in, and, in time, the little green heads (ok, so they are technically called the sprout, and even more technically called the cotyledon) pop out of the soil, eager to be free from the seed pod just like chicks from their eggs.
The great thing about the little butter dishes is they fit nicely on a windowsill and can easily be moved around. Rotate your seed starts, otherwise they are going to grow up with a bad habit leaning toward the window. Want guaranteed perfection for seed starting? Go ahead and invest in a seedling meat to heat the soil from underneath and give those little guys some warm encouragement to wake up from their naps, chow down on their self-packed lunches, and start growing.
We’ve all been gifted a ginormous amount of time to spend at home. Take this time to find good seeds (Baker Creek farm is one of my favorites – rareseeds.com), recycle some old butter containers, order soil online, and start what will be your most beautiful garden ever. We can still go get our hands dirty outside and keep our hearts happy.
Last Frost Countdown: Week -8
Seeds to start indoors: If you haven’t already, get those broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower seeds in. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.
Seeds to start outdoors: Snap peas, lettuce, spinach, onion sets (not the seeds!), potatoes.