The Swathe of Spring Seeds & Seedlings

I said I wasn’t going to grow potatoes this season because I didn’t have the space or inclination , but then I read one of those articles about the most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables and potatoes are one of them… So, I bought just a small bag of Agria seed potatoes; 5 to be precise, and planted them in an old plastic compost bin in the Processing Corner. They will be in no-one’s way there. And no digging required. The leaves have grown up through the first topping of soil already.

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Planting the chitted seed potatoes in the old plastic compost bin.

Spring seed-sowing has been in full force here and, fortunately, most of the sowing and transplanting was done before the super crappy sickness hit us. The tomatoes and peppers led the way in late August, followed by lettuces, onions, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, corn, red orach (totally new to me, supposedly a more bolt-resistant substitute for spinach), parsley and basil.

We haven’t done the greenhouse yet, as I had hoped, but other projects took priority, because, as awkward as it is growing seeds in a house, I have a system that does get all our vegetable crops grown from seed.

  • Phase 1: Seed trays start in the hot water cupboard and I check them frequently for germination.
  • Phase 2: When some of the seedlings have popped up the trays move into the Craft Room and reside on the windowsill or my desk (not much crafting being done at the moment…) so they can get light.
  • Phase 3: When they’re big enough to be pricked out (if they need to be) they go into 5cm pots or 6-cell packs, which return to the Craft Room until they’re big enough to go outside on the deck.
  • Phase 4: They move outside to a sheltered-ish position on the deck.

This has worked pretty well this year, so long as I didn’t sow too many things at once. The biggest problem has been the crazy spring weather. Sometimes we’re so eager to get away from winter into the ‘warmer’ spring time that we forget how turbulent the first half of spring is. We’ve had days of hot sun that got us into t-shirts and shorts, then the next day has brought cold, rain and wind. We’ve had some howling winds. This is not ideal for seedlings on the deck, as we haven’t got enough wind blockage to the deck yet to calm down the fierce westerlies. I have to put taller things around the seedlings to try and protect them.

Here are the varieties of everything I’ve sown in trays so far:

  • Tomatoes:
    • Amish Paste, Black From Tula, Brandywine Pink, Broad Ripple Yellow Currant (cherry) and Gardener’s Delight (large cherry).
  • Peppers:
    • Tollis Sweet Red, Alma Paprika, California Wonder Golden and Cayenne Pepper.
  • Lettuces & other salad leaves:
    • Great Lakes, Red Salad Bowl, Rouge D’Hiver, Summer Queen and Vivian.
    • Red orach.
  • Onion family:
    • Italian Long Keeper (brown), California Red, Pearl Drop (white cocktail) and Purplette (red cocktail).
    • Leek ‘Musselburgh’.
  • Brassicas:
    • Broccoli ‘de Cicco’.
    • Cabbage ‘Red Express’, ‘Red Rock Mountain’ (only a few seeds were left) and ‘Vertus Savoy’.
    • Cauliflower ‘All The Year Round’.
    • Kale ‘Cavolo Nero’ and ‘Red Russian’.
  • Corn:
    • Country Gentleman.
  • Herbs:
    • Parsley ‘Gigante Italian’ and basil ‘Sweet Genovese’.
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A little pepper seedling, full of promise for crops to come.

Let’s not forget the cucurbit seeds. I do them a little differently, if you remember. I place the seeds in rows on one end of a folded, wet paper towel, then fold the other half over top of them, seal them in a labelled plastic bag and put them in the hot water cupboard to germinate. The giant pumpkins were done way early because of my seed-saving mishap, and are in 1L pots ready for planting, like now. All the other cucurbits are outside now in their little 5cm pots and not quite big enough for planting yet, which is good, as the weather’s still a little bit bonkers. Here are the cucurbits I’m growing. Sadly, Pink Banana Jumbo squash is off the list as the seeds The Little Sister saved for me didn’t germinate. I didn’t have any of my own as I didn’t get any jolly squashes from my super slow plants last season. Ah well, they’re not terribly important, and if they don’t cooperate easily, I’m not sure I want to grow them anyway.

  • Pumpkins:
    • Atlantic Giant, Jack Be Little and Wee Bee Little.
  • Squashes:
    • Butternut (seeds saved from ‘Chieftan’ but won’t be pure as it’s an F1) and Chuck’s Winter.
  • Cucumbers:
    • Homegrown Pickles (gherkin) and Tendergreen (telegraph).
  • Melons:
    • Honeydew Green.

I had trouble getting the Tollis Sweet Red peppers to germinate in the seed tray, so I thought I’d try them out with the paper towel method. All but one of them germinated, in less than a week, then they grew beautifully after I lightly poked them down into a tray of seed raising mix. They may be a little more fiddly to handle than the bigger cucurbit seeds, but I am definitely doing them this way again next year.

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The Tollis Sweet Red pepper seeds really liked the wet paper towel method.

We haven’t gotten to do a lot in the Vege Garden yet, other than harvesting to slowly clear the way, but some seeds have been sown in-ground: ‘Scarlet Nantes’ carrots, purple ‘Pusa Asita’ carrots, beet ‘Cardinal’ and spinach ‘Santana’. We have yet to sow Parsnip ‘Guernsey’ and beetroot ‘Cylindra’,  and then the beans once it’s warmer: ‘Yard Long Red Noodle’, bush beans ‘Kidney’, ‘Borlotto Fire Tongue’ and ‘Cannelloni’, and ‘Blue Shackamaxon’, which is a new heritage one I’m trying that you can use fresh or as a dried bean similar to a black bean.

The Little Fulla’s Garden will get a tomato plant in the middle with radish ‘Halloween Mix’ and parsnips sown around the outside. At least, that was his last plan, before he swamped his winter crops with masses of pretty pansies. But the pansies in both our gardens are bringing us joy. And that’s important.

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Simba sits up high to surveil the Vege Garden.

7 thoughts on “The Swathe of Spring Seeds & Seedlings

  1. “if they don’t cooperate easily, I’m not sure I want to grow them anyway” I’m also of that way of thinking!
    I do like your paper towel method of germination – the plastic bag will keep the moisture in nicely. I may try that with my curcubits next year. I’m a terrible one for poking in the compost to see if the seeds have germinated, so this may save me doing that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe yes, there’s only so much we have time for, so vegetable cooperation is most helpful.
      I do highly recommend the paper towel method for cucurbits. It seems like extra work but it doesn’t take long, they germinate so fast and you can see exactly which ones have germinated. Plus you don’t waste growing media on dud ones.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I just wrote about why I do not recommend soaking seed before direct sowing. Even for growing in cells, I would prefer to just plant two seed in each cell, and then pluck out the smaller, and perhaps plug the smaller where neither come up. In our climate, most seeds are sown directly.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Each to their own. The great thing about gardening is there’s no right way to do everything. It’s certainly not a requirement to get seeds to germinate, but in the case of some vegetable seeds I much prefer to do the moist paper towel method. It means less wastage of potting media and seeds when you haven’t got many seeds of a variety to work with and I find that it gives the seeds a good start because their roots can just shoot out into the consistently moist paper towel as opposed to the variations that occur in water levels (due to either the kind of potting media or human watering). Having watched them numerous times, it’s amazing to see how fast the pumpkin and cucumber seeds get growing in this method. That’s why I choose to do it for them. 🙂 And watching how well the peppers germinated with this method was most eye-opening to me. This is the second year I’ve watched seeds in seed trays take ages to germinate or germinate erratically but they did so well with the paper towel method. And then grew so well when I poked them into seed trays. The seedlings ended up overtaking tray-sown peppers that were sown before them. So that’s why I’ll do them this way next year. Great results in my experience. Everything else does just fine without the paper towel method.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. This would actually be different from mere soaking them I suppose, since the seeds are actually germinating. Soaking seeds would be like putting sweet pea seeds in water for a day prior to sowing them, which is no better then sowing them into damp medium a day earlier. Once soaked, the seed must be sown, so can not be saved for later. I sort of use a technique similar to this by sowing yucca seed into flats, and then spotting off (potting) those that germinate. I would not do it with cucurbit seed only because they get sown directly into the garden here, rather than potted for planting later.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Yes, well I can’t say that there are any seeds that I soak in water before potting then. If it’s something with a hard seed coat, for example our native Sophora (kowhai) or Clianthus (kakabeak) then I will scarify the seed coat with a knife or sandpaper before sowing rather than soaking them. I too struggle to see the point of soaking in the way that you mention.
            As for the cucurbits, they are fine to be direct sown here, except for the voracious things that attack them – the molluscs. And as we saw with my banana squash last year, it’s still a battle planting out young plants! That’s the main reason I don’t direct-sow more things. The pests.

            Liked by 1 person

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