Tag Archives: planting seeds

Our Seed Racks Are Full…So Much Promise In A Tiny Package!

 It’s always a fun day when the box of seeds arrive, their colorful packages full of promise. So why are people daunted by them? Maybe it’s the preparation of the garden beds? Or perhaps it’s the angst of sowing them just right and at the proper depth? Maybe it’s the thought of having to water them faithfully until tiny green shoots appear on dark soil?

Whatever your reason, this year let it go and give yourself up to their promise and the wonder of watching life begin from a tiny seed to something to eat, cut, or simply enjoy in the garden. There really is no greater feeling of accomplishment than when tiny green sprouts emerge!

Seed PacketsSuccess with spring and summer flower and vegetable seeds does require you to understand the last average frost date in your area. Here, in Birmingham, Alabama, our last average frost date is mid-April.

The directions on a seed packet will tell you when to sow outside, usually a number of days after the last average frost date, or they might tell you to sow the seed directly in the ground and at a certain depth. Seed packets offer a wealth of information!Seed Packet Information

For example, the information on the cucumber packet shown here tells us that sowing outside is RECOMMENDED 1-2 weeks after the last average frost. It tell us to start them inside but that they’re sensitive to root disturbance, so if we do they should be sown in biodegradable pots that will be planted directly into the garden.

It tells us that, if we have successful germination, the seeds should emerge in 5-10 days, how deeply to sow them (1/2″),  how far apart to space them, and when to thin them.

Seed Packet InformationThere’s even a picture of the seedling so you don’t mistake it for a weed!  That’s a lot of information that will help us succeed in our seed planting venture. Some seeds need to be soaked for a length of time to soften their hard seed coating or nicked with a file to help them germinate. Read your package carefully for any specific instructions, and look on the inside for more information as well.

So, armed with the information on the seed packet, we know when to sow; now we need to be sure our garden beds are ready. What do we do to ensure our tiny seeds will come up? Well, the first thing to remember is that seeds need loose soil to  work their way up into the light and for their roots to take hold.

The best way to accomplish this is to loosen the soil with a garden fork. Break apart large clumps and remove any old roots, sticks, or large rocks. Add soil amendments, if necessary, like  PlantTone, cow manure, or topsoil and rake the soil to create an even, level surface to sow your seeds. Look at the directions on the seed packet to tell you how deeply to sow them. Some might only need to be pressed onto  the top of the soil where they’ll have sunlight to germinate.

If you have very fine seed, a good method to ensure even sowing is to mix the tiny seeds with sand before sowing. For larger seeds create a furrow the right depth, set the seed in the furrow at the correct spacing, and gently cover. Finally, don’t forget to label each planting area.

After planting your seeds it’s important to water them with a fine shower of water to moisten the soil. Here’s the important trick: You must keep the seed bed moistened until the seeds begin to come up. Be careful not to dislodge them with a strong spray of water and remember that on very hot days you may need to water twice.

Seedlings need to be thinned once they’re up and growing.  This is the process where you eliminate the weakest so the strongest have room to grow to their full potential. The best way to thin seedlings is to snip the ones you’re removing at soil level with your fingers or a pair of scissors. Don’t pull them as that could disturb the soil too much around those you’re allowing to stay.

All of the above information assumes you are sowing your seeds directly into a garden bed, but in some cases you might want to start them early inside. This requires either a greenhouse or grow lights or, at the very least, a very bright window and some bottom heat to aid in germination.  I remember my Dad putting pots planted with tomato seeds on top of our  warm furnace in Wisconsin. He’d move them into an unheated greenhouse after they’d started growing but while it was still too early to plant them in the ground.

As a general rule, don’t start seeds inside too early! Most annual vegetables can be sown inside roughly 5 weeks before the last average frost date.  Again, follow all the directions on your seed packet and move them outside when the soil is warmed, usually after the last average frost date.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to pick out some seeds!

 

 

 

From Seed – The ‘Better Late Than Never’ Garden Puts On A Show!

Better Late Than Never Garden - Spring 2016I’ll be honest, my hopes for a beautiful spring show in the ‘Better Late Than Never’ garden weren’t that great. Weather and time last fall seemed to conspire against me – no beautiful transplants of pansies, snapdragons, or foxgloves were put in the little plot across the street, even as everyone else was planning and planting their home gardens September through December. The summer garden went to seed and was finally pulled out with Ben’s help, in November.Better Late Than Never Garden - May 2016

Sometimes, though, nature helps us along. Walking to my car at the end of early winter days I’d glance at the garden, its four beds seemingly lifeless plots of earth. If I had time I’d walk through, looking to see if any seedlings were emerging. There were, zinnias and sunflowers mostly, seeds dropped from fading blooms,  germinating in the still warm soil. But I knew these were destined to freeze in the upcoming winter chill. Oh well, I thought, maybe I can get something in after the holidays.Better Late Than Never Garden - May 2015

Larkspur and Oriental Poppies - Better Late Than Never Garden May 2016The weeks of late summer through fall had passed quickly. We held Molly’s wedding at the shop, and autumn plants and loads of pumpkins arrived and went. The days flew by during the frenetic holiday season that ended as suddenly as it started. January, and a new year,  had arrived.

I finally had more time to concentrate on the little garden across the street with the apt name. I’d noticed,  on the few December days I had a moment to look,  that there were tiny bachelor button plants everywhere in 3 of the beds. I couldn’t do more than try to thin them out, though, with what little time I had.

Better Late Than Never Garden - May 2016They’d  bloomed in the garden the spring prior and had most definitely reseeded, but with barely any thinning were carpeting 3 of the beds quite thickly. I watched them fill in with some alarm. Would they smother themselves out because they were too close together? I decided to let well enough be and see what would happen.Oriental Poppy and Larkspur - Better Late Than Never Garden Spring 2016

Spotting  that bit of growth in the garden energized me. Even as the bachelor buttons were putting on their amazing growth spurt through January and February, I was tossing out seeds of larkspur in all shades.

I’d choose a few Botanical Interests seed packets off the rack, larkspur in shades of blue or mixes of blues, pinks, and whites. Eyeing the beds, I imagined perfect color combinations, letting the seed slip through my fingers onto the uneven soil.Better Late Than Never Garden - Larkspur and Oriental Poppies May 2016

I scanned the garden each morning, hoping to see some spots of green. Impatient, I would scatter more seeds – packets of sweet alyssum, oriental poppies, mixed colors of larkspur – willing an abundance of  flowers for spring.

Oriental Poppy - Better Late Than Never Garden - Spring 2016 Finally I saw the ferny foliage of the larkspur here and there between the crowded bachelor buttons and the distinctive blue-green foliage of the oriental poppies appeared too.

Each day as the plants grew, more and more people asked what was growing in the garden. I’d explain, smiling, about plants  reseeding and seeds thrown onto the ground on cold winters days. Most people looked incredulous. From seed? Yes, I’d answer, seeds, and a prayer for spring.

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

Fall Veggie and Flower Seeds…Try Some This Year!

Planting seeds is a fun project for the little ones!

Planting seeds is a fun project!

Our fall seed selection has arrived, and many folks have already been perusing the seed rack. From radishes to radicchio, lettuces to larkspur, the selection is varied, and the package description on our Botanical Interests seed packets are fun to read too.

Additionally, I’m so pleased this company only supplies us with GMO free seed, which means none of this seed is genetically modified.

If you’re planting seeds for the first time, be sure to read the instructions on the packet. They’ll tell you how deeply to plant and how long it will take them to come up, as well as any other instructions you might need to produce a healthy plant.

Seed packets have lots of information on them...

Seed packets have lots of information on them…

Remember, in Birmingham, our first average frost date is usually the beginning of November. This will help you determine the latest you can plant certain seeds.

Prepare your garden bed by pulling any old vegetation out. If you have a compost pile, everything but weeds can be put into it to decompose. Next you’ll need to loosen the soil – a garden fork works well for this. Push the fork into the soil 7″-8″ and rock it back and forth to loosen it, being sure to break up any big clumps. Many gardeners try to keep turning up the soil to a minimum, since that can bring weed seeds to the surface, providing them the light needed to germinate. Next, add 2″-4″ of soil amendments (dehydrated cow manure, Plant Tone, soil conditioner and/or your own compost) over the top and lightly fork all of it in. Rake the top of your bed to even it out and you’re ready to plant!

Watering your seed bed is important. If you’re sowing very tiny seeds, you may want to water the soil before planting. Once the seeds are sown at the proper depth, keep the soil consistently moist with gentle showers from your hose. Don’t get it too soggy or your little seeings may rot.

Seedlings of many vegetables and flowers benefit from being thinned. This term simply means taking out the smallest, weakest seedlings so one strong plant is able to grow large enough for you to eventually harvest.

Look at that cabbage!

Look at that cabbage!

The easiest way to thin is simply to cut out the weakest with a pair of scissors, leaving the largest to continue growing. Talk about survival of the fittest! You could also tease the weakest seedlings out of the soil and replant in another area – the more the merrier!

Some fall vegetable seeds we have include many lettuces, chard, beets, broccoli, mustard, spinach, turnips and more. If you’d rather plant flowers, larkspur, delphinium, poppies and bachelor buttons are just some of the choices.

Doesn’t this sound like a fun and ultimately rewarding project? If you have children, find a spot in your yard for even a small garden, and start planting!

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