Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Waiting Game - Seed Germination

The best crop of a garden, year after year, is hope.

And never is that more true than at seed starting time.  Some seeds require more patience than others.  Peas and beans may spring forth within a couple of days with a stout green cotyledon that promises shapely leaves almost immediately.  Onions and potatoes will put out roots and shoots while sitting on your pantry shelf.  Tiny seeds, eggplants for instance, are a waiting game...

I found this chart of what seeds to plant when on Pinterest and because the dates so closely match my own schedule I've kept it handy to keep me on track.  I start eggplants, peppers and tomatoes in the house.  The egg plants and peppers grow at a similar rate and will stay shorter than the tomatoes.  They get their own flat so I can adjust the grow lights to their height.  The leggy tomatoes will need the grow lights placed higher at a much earlier date.

I'm always hesitant to set up the grow lights because they take over a lot of space in our tiny house.  I have an old pine table that is the perfect size for two flats.  A vinyl table cloth protects the table.  I have a power strip with a built in timer so the lights and heating pads are on for 12 hours and off for twelve.

I started the eggplants on wet paper towels for two reasons.  Firstly, the seeds are quite old and I know they will not all germinate.  Starting them on the towels lets me easily spot the ones that are viable.  And secondly... eggplant seeds take FOREVER to germinate.  I have had to wait as long as two weeks for an eggplant seed to sprout.  Today is day seven and I have 3 out of 40 sprouting.  I only plan on planting 15 plants and of those I will keep 5 and give away whatever is left.

And THIS is all the bigger the sprout is on day 7.  If it were in a pot of soil I would still be waiting for visible proof.  Oh the suspense!  I just couldn't take it.  The wet towels are the only way to go.  Today I also planted pepper seeds (directly into pots) and next week I will start thinking about tomato seeds.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March Madness

So there I was... bent over the soil tub in the cold frame in 28 degree weather with snowflakes landing in my ear... wishing I had a potting bench... especially if it were in a warm greenhouse.  Gardening just isn't fun when the weather is unseasonably cold.  Plans are easy to put off just one more week.  I think the planting season is going to be a little late this year anyway.  But I have two flats of pots filled and ready.  The dirt in the tub somehow managed to be warm and welcoming despite the brutal winter.

Eggplant seeds start first, followed by peppers then tomatoes two weeks after the eggplants.  Even though I've sworn I'm going to start tomato seeds in the cold frame, I think I am going to do one flat in the house anyway since the grow op is going to be set up.   My eggplant seeds are old and I've put them on damp paper towels in the warm spot on top of the freezer.  Whatever germinates this week will be planted in pots under lights.  The Purple Beauty pepper seeds are new so they go directly into pots next week.  The week after that tomatoes get started in egg carton trays then transplanted deeper into pots.  And then... weather willing, it will be time for lettuce and nasturtiums in the cold frame and peas in the raised beds.

This is how dirt days should be enjoyed....

Me (2 yrs old) sitting on the steam pipes under a bench in the geranium house with English ivy above.

I was always playing in the dirt.  There were dirt bins in every green house and they were always full of my toys.  Usually tractors and shovels, but I had a large Marx farm set handed down from my mother and if there was so much as a wheelbarrow full of dirt to be had, I began farming.  Maybe this would be more fun if I got some farm animals out and scattered them in my dirt tub?