Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cultivating Soil & Sowing Seeds--Part Two

Ready to Sow the Seeds!  

In the past, I have grow only a few plants from seed and purchased the rest already growing at a garden center or nursery.  However, this year I am starting nearly all of my large vegetable garden from seed.

Selecting the seeds to use was quite a task in itself!  I did save seeds from the things I grew last year.   But I have recently learned that some plants have been altered so as not to produce good seed to save for a productive crop the next planting season or the one after that, and thereby requiring the gardener to purchase new seeds nearly every year and inhibiting the true liberties of gardening to providing food for one's family.  

seed catalog from seedsavers.org
I am now convinced that there can be nothing like good ol' heirloom seeds!   After proving myself a worthy gardener ( just kidding, that's not really the case, I just never asked for them until now)  I have finally been given an envelope of cherished tomato seeds which have been planted, grown, and harvested by some members of my family for decades. They are supposed to produce large meaty sauce tomatoes that my great grandmother acquired from a little old Italian lady, and I am anxious to watch them grow this year for myself.  The rest of my selections were purchased from Seed Savers Exchange  http://seedsavers.org/  which offers a free catalog full of color photos and tons of information on nearly 600 varieties of seeds--vegetable and flower--available for sale to the public.  The seeds are certified USDA organic, and therefore have not been tampered with nor had any chemicals applied to them.  They are available in various sized packages, however I chose only to buy the smallest quantity of the kinds I wanted, which cost $2.75 per packet (fairly close to the going rate for a packet of "questionable" seed at local stores).  The delivery arrived on my doorstep a few days after I place the order.   

 As you can see from the picture at the top of the page, I have a lot of seeds to sow!  Keeping a small notebook of gardening notes is a easy way to organize which varieties I have planted and record things such as the date each was started, problems incurred, tips to remember, and even whether or not we like the final product when it comes time to harvest.   

Some of the seed pots in the greenhouse
Now, because we live in an area that has quite chilly rainy springs (such as this year), I have chosen to start my seeds in peat pots and homemade newspaper pots, filled with my blend of potting soil and peat moss, inside our greenhouse to give our plants a head start in a protected area.  I know in the previous post I wrote about cultivating the soil in the garden in order to make it ready to grow seeds and this still holds true for some of the things I will start directly in the garden such as beans, and some squash that germinate quickly.  The soil cultivation is equally important for receiving the newly sprouted plants when time comes to plant them as well.  

More tips to remember when sowing seeds:
Read the package--different seeds need to be planted at specific depths in the soil for the best germination and growth.  Squash (summer, winter, and pumpkins), beans, cucumbers, watermelons are usually sown beneath an inch or so of loose soil, whereas tomato and pepper seeds are to be only about one half of an inch below the surface, and lettuce, carrots and herbs (having the smallest seeds of all) are even more shallow than that.

Monitor moisture closely--appropriate watering is vital. Consistent moisture is best.  Too much saturation will cause mold and rot the seeds before they have a chance to grow.  If your seed pots are drying out too quickly, or you are not available for more frequent light waterings, a covering of kitchen plastic cling wrap may be laid directly over the seed pots to hold moisture and some warmth into the soil. The plastic wrap should be removed once the little sprouts appear.

Warmth--some seeds like peas and salad greens sprout early with cool temperatures, so you can expect to see them popping up from the pots first, followed by beans and other vegetable varieties once the temperature warms a little more.  Soil temperatures have to be quite a lot warmer for tomatoes, peppers and herbs to being to sprout and you will generally be waiting the longest to see any signs of them growing.

Quantity--I hold to the idea that you must sow more than you think you will want or need, because inevitably some of those seeds are just not going to come up, and if they do they might not transplant well. Or they could all grow into healthy young plants and you will have an abundance to share with your family and friends. You never can tell ahead of time, but still you sow and care for those seeds just the same!  

That makes me think of a verse in the Bible--"In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good." Ecclesiastes 11:6    Not only should we have our hearts cultivated to receive the Seed of the Word of God and produce Fruit of the Spirit in our lives,  but we are supposed to go out and sow "seeds" unto others as well.  We must continually spread the message of God's Word, through planting seed varieties such as faith, love, generosity, and encouragement in others. We can't foresee whether our efforts will be fruitful, but trusting the promise in Galatians 6:9 "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" we labor on because even though many of the seeds we sow will not grow at all, some will take root and grow to maturity. And these seeds will give a bountiful harvest the size of which we can't even comprehend.

 "But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully"  2 Corinthians 9:6

Note: The seeds were planted in the greenhouse on Tues April 12.  An update will follow as soon as there are any signs of growth...