For the Garden: Get Your Hands Dirty

Some girls yearn for emeralds and pearls, and some desire Jimmy Choo shoes. For me, my heart soars when the mail carrier delivers pretty little envelopes of seeds, glorious seeds.

Avid gardeners know they get more variety options, healthier crops and pay far less when they buy seeds. There’s absolutely nothing wrong buying plants from your local nursery but seeds give you much more control over the depth and diversity of your garden and it’s so much cheaper. Let’s face it: gardening can be a very expensive hobby.

Seed germination is a basic growing skill that needs to be mastered if you are to be considered a tried and true gardener. Seeds can certainly be started directly in the soil, but planting in containers, before the last frost, gives you a great head start on spring. Also, planting in containers gives you the chance to provide the very best conditions for your immature plants.

Moisture is important to germination, so many experts tell you to soak seeds before sowing them. Also, a heat source isn’t required, but it will help speed up the germination process. Generally, a temperature range from 65 to 75 degrees is best. Gentle bottom heat can speed germination and can be provided by special heating cables or seedling heat mats.

Containers should be clean and sturdy, and must have drainage holes. Try to avoid plastic containers. Fiber pots are biodegradable and will break down in the soil over time allowing the root to continue growing unhampered in the soil. You can also make your own pots from toilet paper rolls or use a paper pot maker, a wooden tool that transforms ordinary newspaper into 1-3/4” diameter pots.

It is important to always use fresh potting compost for every new planting as even though used compost might look perfectly acceptable, most of the nutrients will have been used up. The medium used for starting seeds should be sterile, easily drained and finely textured.

Scatter the seeds evenly over the surface. Plant two or three seeds per pot – all but one seedling will be pinched off if they all germinate. Water in the seeds with a fine spray, being careful not to flood the container. Never ever let your containers dry out. Also, it’s critically important to label your containers.

For teeny tiny seeds, affable and knowledgeable British gardener, Monty Don, suggests you can use a wetted tip of a pencil to gently capture seeds that you can then place into a container.

Knowing where your seed comes from is also important. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, in the last century or so, because of genetic engineering, the world has lost 75 percent of its edible plant varieties. So consider using Seed Savers Exchange, a community of gardeners and seed stewards, who share and swap rare seeds. They have a collection of more than 20,000 different varieties of heirloom and open-pollinated plants varieties.

Just think of it — every tiny seed contains such amazing possibilities from becoming a luscious flower to turning into a tantalizing tomato. Pour some seeds into your hand and your palm suddenly holds a flowering meadow or a delicious green salad. Seeds, glorious seeds.


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