Starting to grow; plants or seeds?
Starting to grow; plants or seeds?
Warm, cold, warm; these big temperature changes are challenging for most living things, but at least it’s not staying too cold or warm for very long now. I’m so grateful for the rain but when it is warm and sunny I’m itching to be out in the garden. I’ve still been doing lots of tree pruning. Although most of the stone fruit are coming into bloom now, unless they are very young trees, it is still OK to prune and you can enjoy the blossoms from your trimmings indoors. The swelling buds direct my cuts to where vigorous new growth or flowers are about to emerge.
The seeds I started with the February new moon are coming up now. Baby bok choy was sown directly in an empty spot in the garden, peas are along the fence, and lettuce and kohlrabi were started in small pots that are on my porch where they get morning sun by are protected from the rain. I chose to direct seed the bok choy because it so easily bolts (goes to seed prematurely) in the spring and this tendency is worse if roots have been disturbed. Peas are large seeds and easy to plant in the soil. But the lettuce and kohlrabi (or broccoli or cabbage) will do better transplanted. How do I decide what to start from seed and when to use transplants? I am very grateful for the 10 years I worked for a seed company and learned to grow so many types of plants from seed.
Of course we had a greenhouse and grew our own transplants, but we also tried growing sowing many seeds directly in the garden and learned a lot about which technique is most successful. These recommendations are reflected in the column “Direct/transplant” on the second page of the calendar at: http://www.igrowsonoma.org/year-round-planting-and-maintenance-guide-for-sonoma-county.
In recent years we’ve found that many gardeners would prefer to use transplants because they feel more confident with them than with seeds. And now garden centers offer transplants of just about every type of vegetable; it was not that long ago that you would never see beans or corn sold as transplants, and certainly not radishes! I’d like to encourage people to start from seed in the ground those types with seeds that are large and easy to handle, (eg. beans, peas, corn, squash, pumpkins), and/or grow quickly easily, (eg. radishes, beets, spinach, arugula), as well as those that cannot be transplanted, (eg. carrots). In addition to saving money, getting healthier plants and having more choice of varieties, starting a plant from seed – especially one you will eat – is a profound experience. A seed is a miracle – the entire life of a plant lying dormant in a hard, dry shell that bears no resemblance to what it will become. To hold a seed in your hand, place it in rich, moist earth, witness germination, and be nourished by this obliging, generous life force, is to be regain our deepest connection with the natural world. The seasonal rituals and blessings of older agrarian cultures start to make sense as we work with the cycles of seed to seed through the years.
If you are interested in learning more about the full cycle of seeds, remember that Sara helps with the West County Seed Exchange where on the last Saturday of the month there are free classes on all aspects of seeds.
Other garden tasks now include searching out hiding places for slugs and snails, (hint - lots of baby snails are hiding in plants with strap-shaped leaves), and cutting back perennial herbs to encourage fresh new growth. I’m harvesting kale that is starting to bolt, my abundant and very tender garlic chives and making salads with the delightfully mild and crunch escarole and endive.
Enjoy the abundant blossoms this month and as you plan your garden, I hope that you will include growing some plants from seed this year.