Waiting Out Winter
While we are still knee-deep in thick white snow, I can dream of spring to come by pouring over seed catalogues, meticulously plan my garden and sow some of my summer vegetables now so they are ready for the warmth of spring to plant out.
I like to spend time in mid-January researching the best seeds for my garden and climate zone, plan succession planting by adding notes into my garden planner and take stock, organise and order more seeds during these 'quieter' times.
Knowing when to sow seeds is equally as important as how they are planted. Seeds sown too early risk being weak and spindly by the time the temperatures heat up, and seeds sown too late will not have the root growth under them to thrive when planted after the frost free dates.
Being in zone 6, with last frost dates around mid May, I sometimes find it hard to figure out exactly what dates to sow the seeds, as usually they require anything from 4 to 10 weeks of growing time before setting out. To help me, I've found an invaluable resource through one of my garden heroes, Margaret Roach's A Way To Garden blog: a seed calculator! I highly recommend it for planning your seed sowing.
Then, in February I am cleaning my nursery area, setting up the grow lights and heating pads, and prepping all my pots for seeding by giving them a clean and stacking them so they are ready to go. Otherwise, if I wait too long, I am rushing around like a headless chicken chasing my tail and not very organised at all ~ not ideal situation for this OCD garden hippy!
Come March 1st, I am trying to get as many broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage seeds in the pots before I need to sow the pepper and tomato seeds. I also take this time to make an almost soil-less seeding mix by adding plenty of perlite to my potting soil, a wee bit of sand, a sprinkle of wood ash, a cup of sand and a handful of vermiculite.
Preparing for this time a few months ahead, I started to collect the plastic boxes with fitted lid that mixed salads come in from the grocers back in December and now I have perfect mini greenhouses for the seedlings, complete with their own lids and drainage holes!
After filling up the re-purposed containers with the seeding soil, I use the end of a chopstick to add a few well-spaced out holes to drop the minute seeds in. I am not planting enough to sell, or feed an army, just my family of four, so I drop one seed in at a time, and pray that they all germinate for me. My little green babies!
Then I place the filled containers on the heat pad, and under the grow lights, and wait. And watch. And wait some more.
So far all the broccoli sprouts have poked their heads above soil quickly, so I moved them away from the heat pad and closer to the grow lights, which leaves more room for more new seeds to be planted and placed on the heat pad.
When planning for our summer garden for this year, I decided to be a little more practical in my seed sowing instead of getting excited about all the different veggies that are available. For example, no longer do I plant zucchini. My family just aren't that into it and the space zuccs need could be better used on a second sowing of carrots (number one vegetable in this family!) or more different varieties of tomatoes.
Will keep you posted on how it all turns out!