Let’s hear it for volunteers! After moving a homemade compost mound onto my food growing beds in the greenhouse, a fascinating diversity of volunteers is germinating in there! Tomatoes, kale, poppies, maple and fruit seedlings are poking up, along with other lettuce and pea seedlings I’ve purposefully installed. Yeah, there are weeds too! I like to let them all grow to see what they are, and pull the weeds as I identify them. This way I get to enjoy a diversity of surprises.
It’s April, so it’s time to plant seeds every day. The frogs are singing and the migrating birds are coming through, buds are bursting, as daffodils riot. Spring has arrived! Making planting seeds a small daily habit breaks up the work into a delightful little meditation for each day.
Peas prefer the cooler temperatures of spring, and can be direct seeded to their prepared home outside. Soak the seeds for a few hours or overnight before planting. Make sure you give them something to climb up like a trellis, net, or just some simple sticks. Protect your pea seedlings from the sparrows who like to nibble them by using an overturned plastic mesh tray over the small seedlings. Peas are a great seed for kids to plant and grow since they are large enough to be handled by small hands.
Lettuce is great to seed continually through the season and also does well with cooler temperatures. I like to sow about ten lettuce seeds in a fiber pak, which are about 7x10 inch mini re-usable (but, eventually compostable) containers. This allows germination of several seeds in minimal space, and when they reach two to three sets of leaves they can be picked out and transplanted as individuals, given the room to become a full head of lettuce. Some plants do not like their roots disturbed, but lettuce seedlings are OK with being transplanted. Handle the seedlings with care and hold them by their leaves, not the stem.
Cabbages, broccoli, kale, and any brassica seeds can be started now. Similar to lettuce, they can be potted up after they germinate and grow to a seedling size indoors. Tomatoes and cucumbers can be started inside now too, but these are heat lovers so make sure you have the space to keep them protected from cold temperatures for a few more months. When moving seedlings outside, be sure to harden them off by taking them out on field trips to the garden to gradually acclimate them to the outdoors, and then back in for the night for a week or so.
Give your seeds consistent humidity for good germination. Clear plastic clamshells from grocery store bakeries work well to enclose small pots or fiber paks to keep them moist. After you see the seeds sprout, take them out of the clamshell and give them the strongest light you can either in a sunny window or under a grow light.
Slugs will be hatching after the rains we have had. Slugs are decomposers and have a role in our ecosystem, but try to keep their habitat in the compost pile and not near fragile seedlings. Clean up debris near slug-tender plants and check often. See our Slugs, Ugh! video for more tips.
Keep adding water, love, and attention and you’re well on your way to vegetables!