Seeds

Welcome Spring?

The calendar shows today as the first full day of Spring 2015 but, outside, Old Man Winter is doing its best to cover all evidence of Spring. Still, even with another three inches of fresh snow covering the ground, gardeners welcome spring.

As the season officially turned to Spring last evening at 6:45 pm, snow was falling. It doesn’t look very spring-like outside this morning.

The first full day of Spring in south-central Connecticut

The first full day of Spring in south-central Connecticut

But yesterday, during an early morning walk I found hints of Spring.

Tete-a tete narcissi barely peeking out of the ground

Tete-a tete narcissi barely peeking out of the ground

The few narcissi bulbs not still buried deep under snow cover were peeking out of the ground. I call this hope and, after looking back at last year’s progress, these sprouts are only slightly smaller than on the first day of Spring last year.

Yep … hope.

More hope shows inside, under lights, where basil seedlings have sprouted.

basil seedlings

basil seedlings

They have a way to go before they are large enough to flavor meals, but these tiny plants bring hope.

For this gardener, one of the best ways to maintain hope while waiting for spring temperatures to actually arrive is to plant seeds. If you need a boost to start some of your own seeds, read my seed starting process.

Grow a seed … believe in the future.

And … welcome Spring even when the outdoor landscape is draped in white.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2015 Joene Hendry

Scratch that Gardening Itch. Start Seeds Indoors

Do you have a serious need to get gardening in spite of cold winter wind and snow blowing outside your windows? Then scratch that gardening itch,  start seeds indoors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA If you are new to indoor seed starting, start with something really easy. Stop by your favorite local garden center and, while enjoying the warmth of their greenhouse, look through their seed selection for a packet of micro greens. If they don’t have micro greens substitute a couple different types of lettuce or a blend of salad greens.

Micro greens seeds sprout in 5 to 10 days and are ready for cutting in another 5 to 10 days. There’s no need to thin micro green seedlings since harvesting involves cutting greens off just above the soil level. Return the harvested flat to it’s light source and continue watering to get a second, albeit less robust, harvest from the re-growth.

One small flat of micro greens will not provide much food – you’ll need to plant quite a few flats to get enough for a salad – but the process of sowing and watering, finding adequate light, and observing growth will give new seed-sowers valuable experience.

If your first attempt does not work, try again. If your seedlings did not sprout, or wilted after sprouting, you probably kept the flats too wet or too dry. Soil should be just moist to the touch.

Seeds have basic needs: soil and water. Light comes into play once seeds sprout and new leaves show.  Each gardener develops their own routine for seed starting. My method is outlined below. It works for any seeds, not just salad greens.

  • The container: black plastic flats saved from prior nursery purchases. Paper cups, repurposed rectangular plastic vegetable containers, small pots, and just about any container that will hold a couple of inches of soil, has drainage, and will not leach toxic chemicals into the soil will work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • The prep: fill containers with light weight potting mix, gently packed down so the soil  gives a little … like a sponge. Small, cut-to-size newsprint will keep soil from escaping through drainage holes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • The planting: I plant seeds into dry potting mix. Scatter small seeds, such as lettuce and radish, in rows or over the entire flat, then sprinkle with a light coating of soil. Larger seeds are inserted a bit deeper into the soil. Plant according to the directions on the seed packet but the general sowing depth rule is to cover seeds to a depth equal to the seed diameter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Label Thumb

  • The watering: place flats into a larger, leak-proof tray containing about an inch of water. The soil absorbs water through the drainage holes in the bottom of each flat. Moisten the top of the soil with a gentle spray from a sink sprayer or a clean spray bottle. Thoroughly moisten the soil initially, then keep the soil moist – not soggy. Cover the flats with clear plastic to maintain even moisture until seeds sprout. Once sprouted, water from the bottom if possible, once the top half of the soil is dry, but do not let flats sit in standing water for days on end. Too much water will drown your plants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • The lighting: Most seeds don’t need light until after they sprout – there are some exceptions but the seed packets should explain this. Once sprouted, provide indoor seedlings with as much sunlight or artificial light as possible. Grow lights are preferred in northern climates. To prevent seedlings from becoming leggy, either the lights or the seedlings must be adjusted so the leaves and the lights are within one or two inches of each other. If grown on a window sill, rotate flats daily to encourage even growth (seedlings will lean toward the sunlight each day), and expect seedlings to become leggy, which is not a serious problem when growing micro greens.

Here’s a few additional tips:

  • Label all flats/pots. I save plant markers from nursery purchases for reuse, or cut plant marker strips from clean plastic milk jugs. Mark labels with permanent markers or an old-fashioned grease pencil.
  • Keep track of the sowing date – I mark the date and number of flats sowed on each seed packet. Use a calendar, journal or plant diary to record your methods, planting dates, successes and failures. Journals can be a valuable resource for future plantings.

 

Much of this content and the photos were originally posted January 4, 2013, but good information bears repeating. Here’s how micro greens grow.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Joene Hendry

Love Cilantro? You Can Grow That!

I’ve yet to meet anyone indifferent to the flavor of the herb cilantro. You either love it or dislike it. If, like me, you fall into the former category I have good news … You Can Grow That! Cilantro is one of the easiest herbs to grow. In fact, growing it can provide you with two herbs for the price of one. Cilantro (the leaves of the plant) and coriander (the seeds) are both products of the Coriandrum sativum plant.

Cilantro is best grown from seed. It has a long tap root and is not particularly fond of being transplanted except when very young. For best results give it well drained soil and full sun. In my zone 6 area of Connecticut, I have sown cilantro seed from early through late spring. I sow again in late summer for a fall crop. The plant is quick to go to flower so to insure an ample supply of fresh leaves it is best to sow new seeds in two week successions.  But cilantro is useful even warm weather induces it to flower and set seed. The flowers can be used in food dishes, though they have a slightly different flavor than cilantro leaves. The mature and dried seeds are coriander, also used in cooking and baking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA My favorite method of growing cilantro is a year-round process. Sow seed in planting beds in early spring. Keep a frost protection covering at hand to protect the plants from frosty nighttime temperatures. Use as many young leaves as possible and try to delay flowering by snipping off the top parts of each plant. Eventually, though the flowers win out and leaf production slows. Let the healthiest plants set seed. When the seeds are dry and turn a light brown they drop to the ground. Encourage them to drop in optimal areas, cover them with a bit of soil, and make sure they are watered regularly. Soon young cilantro plants emerge and mature in time for late summer early fall harvest. Use floating row covers or a cold frame to protect any young plants when cold autumn temperatures arrive. When in the protection of a cold frame, cilantro will continue to grow until real cold moves in, then it goes dormant. It usually survives under cover through winter when given occasional supplemental water during bouts of warmer weather. During warmer winters you may be able to harvest fresh cilantro from the cold frame. During colder winters the plants remain dormant until warmer temperatures return. Water regularly when overwintered plants begin showing signs of growth and open the cold frame when temperatures permit. Once freezing temperatures stop, remove the cold frame.

Right now, my planting beds are in a state of alteration so my early cilantro sowing (see the photo) was in pots. But as soon as my planting beds are reestablished, I’m returning to the cilantro growing method mentioned above. I adore the particularly strong flavor of cilantro that overwintered inside a cold frame. I use chopped cilantro in tomato-, cucumber- or fruit-based salsa, in egg and potato salads, as a garnish for grilled or baked fish – it’s especially good with salmon and swordfish – and, of course, in guacamole.

Like so many herbs, once you experience the fresh taste of home-grown cilantro, you’ll hesitate to reach for grocery store versions. Fortunately, cilantro is an easy, You Can Grow That! herb.

You Can Grow That! is a blog meme occurring on the fourth of each month. It was started by C.L. Fornari at Whole Life Gardening to remind everyone that gardening is good for people. Gardening enriches our senses, our food, and our health. Gardening fosters friendship and increases ones appreciation of nature. Read more You Can Grow That! posts by visiting Whole Life Gardening.

Garden thoughtfully and remember,

 

431580_3416780018870_1251184494_33429590_369171884_n[1]

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry