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SOWING SEEDS MADE SIMPLE

After months of staring at the frozen tundra of a garden, the great thaw has finally arrived! The need for sowing seeds is in the air and lawns everywhere are finally seeing the light of day here in the true north. I, for one, couldn’t be more ecstatic! After my first winter here in Winnipeg, I’ll tell you, staring at hypothermia in the face for five months sure does give one a genuine appreciation for warmer days.

And you know what warmer days mean…

Gardening!!

Last spring, I had quite a time trying to figure out exactly how to go about gardening up here. When should I start seeds? When can I put the seedlings outside? How well will the plants do with a shorter growing season? As with any good scientific question, experimentation is the key to the answers. With a little help from my friends, I’ve come up with an easy plan for sowing seeds that has yet to fail me.

Over the last few years, I’ve become a little more educated and a lot more prepared. Even with snow still on the ground, my fingers itched for the feel of soil, around the end of February. Pace yourself, Jen. I eased into it with some herbs.

WHERE TO START

I had some pots of curly-leafed parsley and chives already basking under the heat lamp on my potting bench. Didn’t have high hopes that they would survive but they’re resilient little buggers. So I brought them up and placed them in our kitchen window sill. I have since added marjoram and spring onions that I rooted from fresh herbs that Darren bought for some recipes. I’m currently in the process of rooting some fresh thyme.

LET’S SOW SOME SEEDS

Two more weeks brought the Ides of March and it was time to plant some seeds. As the snow levels outside begin to recede, I spread out my seeding tools on the dining room table. Pretty high tech, eh?

Over the course of the winter, I had been saving all of our egg cartons for this purpose. I simply remove the lid and recycle it. I used some popsicle sticks left over from last summer’s delights as markers and label them with a permanent marker.

To store my collection of seeds, I use old medicine bottles with the labels removed and then just create labels for them on the computer which I fold and place inside. If you’ve purchased new seeds, you can just cut off the top of the seed envelope to fit the size of the bottle and place that inside. The lids make great tools for holding and counting your seeds as well.

As you can see, fancy tools and gadgets are not required for this task. I’m a big fan of up-cycling. I rummage for things that we have hanging around that I can use for a multitude of purposes. I fill each section of the egg carton with quality soil. (Now remember, quality soil doesn’t mean you have to drop a ton of cash for it. At this time of year, one can often find bags of perfectly decent soil at the dollar store.)

SIMPLE STEPS

Using a rounded tablespoon measuring spoon, I add the same amount of soil to each section. 

I then tamp it down with the back of the spoon.

You can also use the bottom of a shot glass which has the same diameter as the egg cup.

I designate each side of the carton (six sections) for each variety of seed.  I then again use a popsicle stick to make holes in each egg cup into which I place the seeds. The number of seeds I place in each hole depends on the size of the seed. I make three holes in each section in a triangle formation, then place one seed in each hole for larger seeds, two for medium-sized seeds and three for small seeds.

The reason I plant so many is to accommodate for seedlings that don’t survive past the germination stage (which is common) and the fact that not all seeds will germinate. Sowing many seeds will ensure that you have enough healthy plants to transfer to your outdoor space.

ALMOST DONE

Once all the seeds are in place, I use the popsicle stick to cover them. Then once again I use the bottom of a shot glass to tamp it all down. Seeds like to be snug. Compacting the soil allows for water to get directly to them without going through any air pockets first. Air pockets allow for any existing bacteria to attack the fragile new root systems of your seedlings. So tamp, tamp, tamp!

Now that all are in place, I set them all up in a row and smile! The first seeds of the season are tucked gently in their wee little beds.

To create a nice greenhouse effect to get those seeds to germinate, I cut a piece of plastic wrap around four inches larger on all sides than the egg carton. Then place the marker sticks on opposite sides of the carton. These will hold the plastic up above the seeds to allow for the air inside to heat up and warm the soil and the seeds.

Generously spray each seed section with water. Match up the two longer sides to meet at the top, to form a seal. Run your thumb and forefinger along the seal to make sure the two side stick together. Fold down the seal just to where the plastic wrap meets a marker stick. Then fold the shorter side bits under.

Place in a sunny window where the seed cartons will get at least a few hours of direct sunlight each day and in a week or so (depending on the germination time of your seeds) your trays should look similar to these. See? Now you have a sure-fire plan for sowing seeds too!

Winter Gardening

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. – Audrey Hepburn

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