About the SFMGA

Monday, June 18, 2007

Seed Starting Tips

Creating your garden totally or in part from seeds is economical and easy, plus, your choices of fruits, vegetables, and flowers, both annual and perennial, are myriad. You'll be able to grow plants unavailable at any nursery, lending great variety to your garden efforts. In Santa Fe, we have so much sunshine that seedlings from seed quickly catch up with their expensive nursery seedling counterparts. And, who doesn't have a sunny window to sow at least a few seeds early inside? To get you started, here are a few tips on growing with seeds beyond the directions on the seed packets:

  • Make your own seed starting mix: Blend equal parts fine peat moss and vermiculite. If necessary, rub the peat through a screen to create a fine mix. Add enough water at seedling time to create a moist, not wet, mix.
  • If you choose to start seeds in soil, cover seeds with vermiculite or sphagnum moss to help retain moisture and easily mark where your seeds went.
  • Superfine vegetable seeds? Blend them with sand to help you broadcast them evenly. Try sprinkling seeds evenly and thinly over your soil, eliminating the effort of trying to form straight rows. Then, rather than thinning the vegetables, harvest these juvenile plants for salads and soups.
  • Take-out containers with hinged lids, thoroughly clean, make excellent seed nurseries. Put starter mix directly into the container (cut drainage holes first) or in paper muffin or catsup cups that you then put into the take-out container. The hinged lid retains moisture during germination and the seedlings can be transplanted into the garden right in the cups.
  • When sowing mesclun greens, make your own mix by choosing individual types and blending them. Place a pinch of your mix into shallow holes in the garden (or in individual peat cells inside). As each clump matures, harvest the entire bunch for instant mixed greens.
  • When lettuce bolts at the end of the season, let it go to seed. You'll get volunteer lettuce next season.
  • To achieve even spacing when seeding, cut the ends off a vegetable can that's as wide as you want your seeds spaced. Use the can to stamp rows in the garden and place the seeds in the center of the circle. This technique is especially good when gardening with children who then know exactly where to plant their seeds.
  • Row covers mean you can set out seedlings early. Check local nurseries for this valuable gardening tool.