By Meredith MacKeen
Longer days, occasional warm winds, and sunshine excite gardeners who look forward to getting their hands dirty. Seed catalogue photos of luscious plants stimulate the imagination as gardeners launch into their ‘best ever season’. Some extend the growing season by starting seeds indoors. Those who have saved seeds from their success stories or from packages not used up last year will know that carefully stored seeds can germinate a few years after they have been harvested, but will require more seeds for the same results. Those with a warm, sunny, glassed-in porch or a greenhouse can start immediately. Others will have to make adaptations to regular rooms by adding lighting and heat pads. Do turn the lights off at night as plants need some sleep.
Most gardeners plant their seeds in early March, calculating that the plants will be ready by the end of May, about two weeks after the last frost. Average date of last frost at Farnham weather station is May 24; others estimate that after the last full moon in May is the best date. So, starting in mid-March into early April, should be sufficient time. If plants stay indoors too long they become straggly.
The choice of vegetable and flower seeds will depend on the gardener’s tastes. Easy to grow include tomatoes, lettuce, kale and cabbage and for flowers, zinnias, cosmos, and marigolds, and don’t forget some herbs. Eggplants and peppers earn bragging rights. Some enthuse over red cabbage in their favourite sauerkraut recipe.
Three seeds in a starter pot that can be made from peatmoss, or cardboard, or newspaper sheets folded into a pot and even egg shells or cartons can be used. All need both a drainage and water retention system. Potting soil is necessary. Check the packages for correct soil temperatures. The hard part comes with selecting the strongest of the three seedlings and removing the other two. Once out in the garden, all plants need supplements (fertilizers) and compost. Depending on soil type, eggshells or coffee grains could be considered. Soil tests are available. Duck manure is a favourite here as a compost. Of course, if the seedlings don’t develop as desired, the many local nurseries have a huge selection of plants ready for the planting.
For gardeners the feel of warm soil is magical and carries a profound sense of contentment.