Gardener’s Notebook by Joshua Burman Thayer
Although it’s barely spring, summer is right around the corner, at least when it comes to having a garden full of vegetables. Sure, you could wait until May and purchase six packs (I mean squash starts, not beer) or you could plan ahead and sprout your summer garden from seed right now. It’s much more cost conscious, and while growing from seed could seem daunting, actually, it’s not. Here’s how:
Pick Your Sprouting Spot
If you are not lucky enough to have a greenhouse, a window that receives good sun exposure is a perfect place to successfully start your summer veggies before the weather outdoors is warm enough.
Gather These Materials
- Coconut coir, a soil-less medium that is aerated and nutrient poor, which creates good sprouting conditions
- 750 ml spray bottle for application of nutrients with minimal plant disturbance
- Kelp meal to create a nitrogen-rich foliar spray for baby plants
- Foliar solution, which is great for delivering nutrients to baby plants
- Worm castings for micronutrients in a readily available form for baby plants
- Fox Farm Potting Soil, a black soil with nitrogen and micronutrients good for transplanting sprouted, month-old plants
Purchase Your Seeds
Your local nursery should be well stocked with seeds this month, but not all seeds are created equal. I like Kitazawa Seeds, an Oakland company with a great selection. I’m also partial to the seeds from Peaceful Valley, a Grass Valley–based company that has been a leader in the organic gardening and farming movement. Denver-based Miss Penn’s Mountain Seeds come from a company that does bio-intensive growing at high altitude where you really have to know what you’re doing to get good results. If you have a large garden area to plant, purchasing seeds by the half pound is more cost effective.
- Fill your trays or six-packs with coconut coir and bury the seeds in the medium.
- Fill the spray bottle with water and 1 teaspoon foliar spray nutrient or kelp meal and spray the coconut coir so it is damp but not soggy. Come back to spray two or three times per week to keep the medium moist at all times.
- Within a month, when the sprouts are reaching toward 2 inches tall, your babies are ready to pot up in 4-inch pots filled with Fox Farm organic soil mix. Continue to mist with kelp and micronutrients for a second month.
- At the start of May or even late April you may bring your sprouts outside to harden off for a week or two. If they have been well cared for, they now have the benefit of being strong plants, ready to charge in growth before the late-June solstice.
- When you are ready to plant into the ground, add 1 teaspoon worm castings into the bottom of each planting hole.
Joshua Burman Thayer’s Gardener’s Notebook is filled with gardening advice for every season. Visit the whole collection of articles here.
Get expert help with your garden from Joshua Burman Thayer at 510.332.2809. Learn more about food forests and permaculture landscape design at nativesungardens.com and from Joshua Burman Thayer’s book, Food Forests for First Timers. Purchase a copy of this book.