Jennifer E. Beaver
It all started innocently enough.
A packet of wildflowers here, some specialty lettuce there. No problem.
But next thing you know, I craved more– the strange, exotic oddball stuff. Like wasabi arugala and borage.
The seeds are taking over. My laundry room is crammed with tools of the addict: empty egg cartons, clear plastic containers, misters, special seed-starting mix.
I blame it all on my friend Marlene. She’s one of those gardeners who doesn’t talk much about what she’s growing but then shows up with the gift of a luscious Italian tomato plant…silky, delicious-but-durable lettuce…perfect artichokes…and then tells me she started them all from seed. And would I like some? Which explains why I am also about to start yard-long purple beans and Lucky Lion soybeans.
Really, I was perfectly happy with the pre-planted vegetable six-pack from the nursery or big-box store. But now I’m hooked.
Just in case you’re grappling with a similar addiction, I thought I’d pass along a few things learned in my seedy journey to help you have success with your own.
First, forget the egg cartons and seeding trays with itty-bitty openings. Yes, I know you can find plenty of Internet techniques for using recycled objects to start seeds. Getting the seeds in– no problem. Getting the seedings out? Problem. The fragile plant you’ve nurtured and hovered over will disintegrate in your hand, and you’ll be left with a couple of sad leaves and a filament of fragile roots. Better to use a small fiber pot– you’ll find them almost anywhere gardening supplies are sold. Bury the whole thing. If you leave the top rim exposed, it can dry out and prevent your little pot from successfully integrating itself into the soil.
If you don’t have a mist setting on your hose attachment or are starting seeds indoors, water them with a child’s sippy cup or a water bottle with a flexible, integrated straw. If your seeds refuse to grow and you’re about to give up, try topping them with a clear plastic cover– leftover food containers work great. They create a greenhouse effect that sometimes gives recalcitrant seeds the right environment to actually do something.
Wondering what to plant when? Check out the GrowGuide Seed Starting Planner (chestnut-sw.com/growform.htm). Renee’s Garden (reneesgarden.com) has some great seed-starting resources. Get inspired, and grow your own!
Jennifer E. Beaver, a Wrigley resident, is a master gardener and author of Container Gardening for California and Edible Gardening for California.