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Signs of Spring & Seed Starting Class

This past Sunday, February 19, sure felt like spring. I walked back to the garden and take a look around the yard. Although at first glance it looked like a mess, I found large clumps of snowdrops in bloom all over. There were a few crocus up here and there in between the hellebores. Then out back the wintersweet, Chimonanthus praecox, was a huge mound of fragrant yellow blooms.

We cut the rest of the pussy willow and also some forsythia to force. The oaks leaves that we never rake are still thickly covering all the beds. I could see many green tips showing here and there where the wind blew the leaves away or where the darn chickens pushed them aside to eat insects. I know it is good to let the fowl out to eat insects and weed seeds, but sometimes they destroy the snow drops or other early plants.

Ted is taking all of the fence down that surrounds our large kitchen garden. We have to clear and cut back pussy willow, some fruit trees that are old and finished, and other weed trees and plants that seeded themselves between our fences. The new fence will be buried deep to keep ground hogs out and will go high to deter deer. We also run a few lines of a deer repellent ribbon at the top.

Since we plant radishes, lettuce, spinach, beets, onion sets, and some herbs by St. Patrick's Day, we have to get down to business with the fence. I find that the hardy cold weather crops do well sown directly out in mid march.

Seeds are tiny miracles that can be held in the palm of the hand! I have always loved seed packets and still do. I remember selling seeds for school as a kid. A pack of seeds is a symbol of hope.

The most important thing with starting seeds is timing. If you plant them too early, they freeze, if you plant them too late it is too hot or the growing season will not be long enough for some. New gardeners learn this in a season or two and old gardeners soon have it in their genes. Watching seasoned gardeners in your neighborhood is the best way to learn!

Peas, lettuce, radishes, dill, parsley, poppies and lots of spring greens can all be put out from St. Patty's day and on. We try to get a few rows ready on mild days when the soil has dried out a bit. It is never good to try to work muddy soil. We have sandy soil so our problems are a bit different. As seasoned gardeners know some years the seeds sprout and have the right amount of rain and cool but mild temperatures. Some years they freeze or dry out. Last year was a bad year for our peas and I don't know why.

Some years we planted our lettuce and some herbs in a homemade cold frame with old glass storm windows over it. It was awesome and our plants were really well.

Remember that when a seed is planted it needs constant moisture to sprout and grow. The seed swells up and soon the 'seed root' emerges to take moisture into the seed. Next the 'seed leaves' push out, seeking the sun. Constant moisture is needed during this period for the seed and its parts to live and grow. Lack of water will cause the seed to shrivel and die. I think that is why so may have 'bad' luck starting seeds. Of course a cold muddy puddle is not good either. Sunny well-drained gardens work best. Many seeds such as lettuce, radishes, and peas are best sown where they are to grow. If they are started indoors where it is warm they are often weak and limp and the cold cuts them down then they are moved out. They are cold weather crops and it is natural to plant them outdoors in March or early April.

Seeds that should be started indoors are those that are slow to germinate and grow, and need warmth. These are the tender crops like tomato, eggplant, and peppers. They are best started indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. I do not start that many in my house as the seedlings soon get lanky from lack of strong sunlight.

If you would like to learn more take part in our seed starting workshops. You will learn the how and whens of seed planting and for the $5 registration fee take home a flat of seeds. Pre-registration is required.