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Posts Tagged ‘seeds’

Gardening toddlerIn April, I wrote about how Bee and I were spending afternoons cooking together. Then the weather changed.

It got warm and I wanted to go outside in the afternoon and not be stuck in the kitchen. I started preparing as much of dinner as possible during nap time in order to be able to take Bee outside after her nap. Turns out she’s quite the Nature Girl and loves being outside!

We spend lots of time in the backyard, where she likes to explore, dig in the dirt, collect worms, observe bugs with great curiosity, run, climb,… I take advantage of the time and her growing independence to garden, having her help me if she’s interested.

The first time she saw me planting seeds, she wanted to plant some too, of course. I set her up with a pot of earth and some older seeds. She redefined square-foot gardening that day!

Gardening toddler

Bee planting whatever seeds she could get her hands on. Now that’s square foot gardening!

Gardening toddler

Making sure it looks nice… or just having fun sticking popsicle sticks in the soil.

Gardening toddler

Watering to help the seeds grow.

Square foot gardening by a toddler

About three weeks later: peas, radishes, flowers, arugula, and probably other sprouts too!

Meanwhile I had some reinforcements (my parents) help David and me set up some additional vegetable growing beds. That meant moving all of our perennials to the front, which has gone from looking rather dismal to quite delightful — we just increased our curb appeal! I think it will look lovely next spring when all the bulbs bloom.

Last weekend David planted our tomato seedlings. The new setup with grow light worked wonders. The seedlings look strong and grew straight.

Tomato seedlings, week 2

The tomato seedlings under the grow light after two weeks. When David planted them they were taller, but just as straight and strong.

Meanwhile I sowed carrot, chard, beet, spinach, radicchio, kale, cabbage and salsify seeds in our new plots. I also put a second batch of seeds under our grow lights. Those eggplants, cucumbers and zucchini seedlings should be ready to plant in two-three weeks — along with various beans and edamame — when the soil is nice and warm.

I’m already harvesting radishes and baby greens. This weekend I’ll put in some more radish, arugula and mesclun mix seeds to make sure we have an ongoing supply of greens and garnishes for salad.

First harvest of baby greens: mesclun salad mix and kaleI’m excited for this year’s gardening season: more space, new opportunities, getting my hands dirty, lots of fun!

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Seed boxOh how lovely it was, digging my fingers into some potting soil this morning!

Bee was at her grandparents’. I covered the table and floor with plastic tablecloths, turned on some tunes and got out my gardening supplies and seeds.

This year, I’m starting my seeds with the help of a grow light for the first time. I opted for a simple three-foot grow bulb stand. Although I’m somewhat concerned that it will not provide as much light as I need — I think I’d need two bulbs for optimal coverage — I figure it will still give me better results than in previous years.

In previous years, I always ended up with tall scraggly seedlings with funny twisted stems. No surprise, since the seedlings would lean towards the window light. Then I’d rotate the flat and they’d lean in the other direction, growing spindly as they fought for light.

Despite their less than desirable appearance, they would always grow into strong, productive plants once in the garden. The tough part was the transplanting. They were fragile; the stems would easily break. And I’d be minus one or two plants. I’m hoping my new setup will give me strong plants from the start, which will make transplanting easier.

Starting seeds. New setup with simple grow light.

The new setup means I have less space for seedlings. That’s ok though. Last year, I started some seeds too early (zucchini, cucumbers, beans). They grew faster than I expected and in the end I couldn’t maintain them until it was warm enough to plant them.

This morning I planted only tomatoes (I’m excited about all the new varieties I got for this year: Sasha’s Pride, Cougar, Sunsugar, Black Krim, Amish Paste, and more!), eggplant, wild arugula (a non-bolting perennial I’m trying for the first time) and chives. For the other vegetables, I’ll either direct sow them when the earth is warm or start them early May, closer to transplanting time.

In the meantime, I’m eager for the remaining snow to melt, so David and I can whip the beds into shape and plant those cool earth-loving seeds like peas, snow peas, fava beans (trying again hoping to get it right this year), mesclun mix and other early lettuces.

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Tall beans grown from seed indoorsThis year I decided I would start beans indoors for the first time, to give them a head start and hopefully find the “success” in succession planting.

Beans grown from seed indoorsWell, I am having success of some sort. The beans are growing fast and furious, already reaching past the tops of the two-foot stakes I put in the little pots. What am I going to do until I’m able to plant them outdoors?!

Beans are usually among the last seeds to be planted since the earth needs to be warm for them them to germinate. That means, they go in at the end of May. But my seeds have already germinated, so I wonder if I could plant them outdoors a little earlier?

Based on some discussion threads on gardening websites, it sounds like:

  • I may have planted the beans indoors a little too early.
  • They can handle being transplanted to cooler soil.
  • I should harden them outside in a protected location for a week prior to planting.

With this information, I’ve decided to transplant the beans sometime early May and see what happens. Until then, I’ll try to get them to train up something flexible.

I’ll also sow some beans directly outside at the end of May to make sure I get beans sometime this summer. In the end, I have nothing to lose (except a couple of plants) if my experiment doesn’t work out.

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Sprouts at 1 month

They're growing strong! My sprouts have become baby plants.

My sprouts are one month (+ 4 days) old! Actually, they’re no longer sprouts—they’re baby plants. Until this week though, I wasn’t convinced that this first experience of growing plants from seed would be a success.

Some seeds took a very long time to sprout. After two weeks, their growth seemed to stagnate. I transplanted them from the growing medium to nourishing soil. They seemed to stand a little taller. Last week I put them outside, and the favourable weather is encouraging them to grow taller, stronger and leafier every day. I admit that we’ve supplemented our baby plants with small ones from a nursery. But I’m also confident we’re on the path to a harvest with our vegetables grown from seeds.

I’ve taken notes on what I’ll do differently next year.

Lessons Learned Growing Vegetables from Seed

  • Start earlier (mid-March). This Ottawa planting calendar should help me out.
  • Forget the growing medium. Plant directly into small pots filled with garden soil.
  • Find a better window spot (or use a lamp?); the seedlings were always leaning toward the light.
  • Be patient. Different plants have different germination times.
  • If it doesn’t work the first time, try again. There are several variables that influence germination. It’s hard to control them all with an amateur set-up.

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This year, I decided to try growing some plants from seed rather than buying them at the nursery. The instructions on seed packets suggest planting them 6-8 weeks before they can be planted outdoors, which in Ottawa is traditionally Victoria Day weekend. By the time I planted them last weekend, I was technically already behind schedule, but I planted them anyway and will learn through trial and error.

Seeds

Organized by where to plant them and outside soil temperature.

Before I started though, I organized all my seed packets according to when they should be planted. That way I can avoid having to read up on them every time. It’s pretty rudimentary, but a good guideline nonetheless. Since peas and mâche/lamb’s lettuce prefer a cooler temperature for germination, I planted these seeds directly into the garden after working the earth a little. Listening to my gut and reassured by the weather forecast, I felt they would be ok. Besides, they’re frost hardy varieties. Nothing poking out of the ground yet, but I hope to come home from work one day and find a row of delicate green sprouts.

Seedling map

Making sure I know which seeds turn into which plants.

Then I dug out this seeding kit David bought me last fall and got to work. I “reconstituted” the growing medium (coconut coir) by adding water and filled half of the compartments based on the number of seedlings I wanted to plant. Then I mapped out which seeds I would put where, planted them and placed them in a bright window, where they get morning sun. Since I miscalculated and ended up not having enough prepared compartments, I made holes in the bottoms of several yoghurt containers, filled them with potting soil and planted seeds in them too. I keep a spray bottle nearby and mist them daily to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out.

Indoor seedlings

Sprouting success! Arugula and kohlrabi are the winners so far with sunflowers and cherry tomatoes not far behind. Still to come: fennel, tomatillos, more tomatoes, peppers, chives and coriander.

So far, so good! On Wednesday, my arugula seeds had already sprouted, followed the next day with the kohlrabi. Today a couple of tomatoes and the sunflowers broke through the earth. It’s so exciting!

Black currant blossoms

Black currant blossoms.

Meanwhile, the garlic I planted last fall is growing strong. The black currant bushes are promising a lot of fruit based on the flowers they have now – and we’ve already put chicken wire around the two plants to protect them from the squirrels that ate off all the green berries last year. The rhubarb stalks are reaching for the sky and the herbs are looking good. A couple of parsley plants even came back.

I’m already anticipating all the delicious recipes we’ll prepare with our garden harvest. Can’t wait!

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