30 September 2008

Sowing vegetable seeds

I spent a small amount of time sowing seeds yesterday. In the past, I used to have trays and trays of seeds but now that we have a continuous garden, I get by with a large planting in March and then just sowing small numbers of seeds to fill in spots that arise during the year. Yesterday I planted up four golden nugget pumpkin seeds, four lemon cucumber seeds and six Moneymaker tomato seeds. The pumpkins will be planted where the kipfler potatoes are now, in the front garden, the cucumber and tomatoes will go into the vegetable garden when the snow peas are removed. That should have happened by now but we're behind with some work because of the fence building and my writing. No matter, everything happens in its own time.

I thought it might help some of the new gardeners if I wrote a little about sowing seeds. It seems to be a mystery to some and I remember when I first started gardening, I was never sure of the right depth to place the seeds or if I was doing the right things when I sowed my seeds.

The best seeds to sow are open pollinated or heirloom seeds. If you plant them. not only will you get vegetables far superior to those you buy in the supermarkets, you get the old varieties that have better taste. And the bonus is you can save the seeds from one of your plants at the end of the season and use them for your next planting. Using seeds from your own garden will give you plants that are better suited to your own conditions and if you keep planting your own seeds, they will improve each year. In Australia you buy heirloom seeds at Green Harvest, Eden Seeds, Diggers, Phoenix and a number of other small places. For gardeners in other countries, do a Google search for "open pollinated seeds" or "heirloom seeds" and you should find something close to you. There are many heirloom seed companies and they have their entire seed catalogue online, so it's just a matter of selecting what you want, paying for it and waiting for the post to arrive.

The general rule for seed planting is to plant the seed twice as deep as its size. So if you have a seed that is 1mm, you plant it 2mm into the soil. If your seed measures ¼ inch, you plant it ½ inch deep. Some seeds (beans, peas,) benefit from soaking in warm water for 24 hours - this breaks the hard seed casing and speeds up germination. After you soak the seeds, plant them into moist soil or seed raising mix and then don't water until they germinate. Please note: it is only pea and bean seeds you have soaked that don't require watering - all other seeds you sow must be kept moist, not wet. Parsley seeds can be soaked in hot water for 24 hours, then sowed just like other seeds - into moist, not wet, soil.

Seed raising mix in a bag is quite expensive to buy. The potting soil you use doesn't need a lot of nutrients in it, so don't use your best mix. All the nutrients the seeds need are inside the seeds, you just need to supply moisture and a growing medium that will allow the tiny new shoots to emerge easily. I often use compost in the trays and just cover the seeds with seed raising mix or potting soil mixed with sharp sand. Whatever you cover the seeds with needs to be light to allow those little shoots through.

Above and below are Lazy Housewife Beans drying in the shade of the back verandah. We eat these beans green, they're as good as Blue Lake, but I also dry some of them to keep in the pantry. When they're dry, they're similar to haricot beans and can be used in soups and casseroles as well as a variety of Mexican and French dishes. I will save some of these seeds to be planted in the garden.

Once the seeds are in and covered, put a tag on them with the name and date then water them gently with a spray bottle. I use a mix of water with a little Epsom salts added to water in. The Epsom salts is magnesium and it helps germination. The ratio is one teaspoon to one litre (quart) of water. If you have any left over, water your vegetables or citrus trees with it.

So that's it! Then you just wait for the first little bits of green to poke through and plant them when they're ready to plant. Tomato seedlings need extra care before they're planted in the garden though and I've written about that here.

Before I go today I have a couple of extras I'd like to add. Yesterday when I was working on my book, I spent quite a bit of time going through the archives. I was really touched by so very many of the comments you've made over the months. I read every comment that's made each day but reading them in one block made me realise, yet again, how much you all add to this blog. A little green community has built up here that is knowledgeable, supportive and generous. I sincerely thank all of you who regularly comment.

I also want to thank Sharon who is a constant help to me both on the blog and behind the scenes in emails. Sharon organises all the swaps and also posts on weekends to give you wonderful links for projects and gifts. I have added Sharon's email to the side bar so if you have any questions about swaps or links, you can email her direct.

Now, some responses to yesterday's post. Thanks to simple quilter who gave me the information to identify those tiny blue flowers we have in our lawn as lobelia. :- )

Rose, what a wonderful man Paul Newman was. RIP Paul.

Cassie, good luck with your garden. Lucky you have such a great helper there.

Lindsay, it sounds like you're starting off on an incredible journey. I'm pleased I could help you on your way. Please stay in touch and let me know how it goes for you.

Amanda, congratulations on the new baby. I hope things have settled down for you now. (hugs)

Donna, our haystack sits there for a while so the seeds die off. You can definitely use your hay for mulch. Just take a handful of hay and put it in your garden, water it and see what happens. If it does grow weeds, often you can just pick them out when they're at the green shoot stage. Usually it will just be the seeds of the plant, be it lucerne, wheat, rye etc. In that case, again, you just weed it out. But if your little test of mulch doesn't grow anything after sitting in the garden for three weeks, you'll know there are no seeds in it.

Hi Quinne, I hope that little baby of yours is chubby and giggling. :- )

ADDITION: Many of you know that I'm a great fan of Path to Freedom, it is the one site I've continued to visit for many years. Here is a video of theirs, it's well worth the time it will take you to view it. Make sure you visit the blog Anais writes. It's really good.

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