Sowing Seeds 2
by Dan Clost
by Dan Clost


First serious garden earned 25 cents from the Kemptville Horticultural Society when I was 12. Have been poor in horticulture ever since but rich in spirit.

Went to work writing the Good Earth column (over 500 articles published in newspaper, magazine, website and journal.) and learned that what was printed wasn't what I wanted to say and certainly not what Gentle Reader understood me to say. Subsequently have developed a certain clarity and economy of words.

Day job- nursery and production manager for a large nursery/garden centre
Side job- Garden restoration and renovations, design consultations, remedial pruning.
Night job- garden writer and communicator (overnight success in another 20 years)

Dan gardens in Canadian Zone 5b

February 13, 2005

Sometimes, Gentle Reader, it's difficult to cover all the aspects of a topic in a single column. Last week's exercise on sowing seeds brought this to the fore. This type of column lends itself to general advice that covers the most common situations. However, even the common can be involved and a bit complicated. A few questions have been directed this way and, perhaps, that is the best way to resolve any missed bits from the first article. What follows is a recounting of those questions.

When Do I sow the seeds?

Just to add a bit of clarification to last week's advice. There are three time periods of which we need to be aware. From the time we sow the seed to the time we see a new shoot poking its tips through the medium is called the germination period. It can be anywhere from 3 to 14 days. From the that time until we can actually see a flower or harvest a fruit is called the growing period. The growing period may last the entire summer and fall or it might be significantly shorter. Two examples of this would be an indeterminate tomato and a snap pea. The third time frame is called the growing season. It varies depending upon your area and possible micro-climates but it is generally the length of time from the last spring frost to the first fall frost. This is the actual outdoor time available for the plant. The growing season can be extended by sowing seeds indoors and the use of cold frames out of doors.

How do I feed my seeds?

You don't need to feed them. They have no roots to take in anything. The new plant will use the food stored in the seed. Once you transplant them, though, you need to provide them with nutrients. Some potting soils have a shot of fertiliser mixed in with them that allow the plants to begin using it as soon as they are ready. This little bit of value added product allows us a wee bit of leeway without penalising the plant for our lack of diligence.

My seedlings fall over because of weak, narrow stems. What do I do?

This is called damping off and is the result of a fungus attacking the stems. There are two solutions. The first is to increase air movement around the stems by setting a small fan nearby. The second solution is to use a product called No Damp that kills the fungus. ( As a side note: I came across this tip in one of the organic magazines. "There's no need to use a synthetic product to control damping off. I took apart an old refrigerator, removed the fan, rigged up a switch, created an oscillating feature and spent a few minutes setting the arc. No problems and everything worked fine. Umm..G.R., don't do this; just buy the fan .)

By the way, this diagnostic works for damping off only if all your plants exhibit these symptoms. If only a few of them flop over or have crushed stems, compare the size of the damaged area to the size of your kitty's paws.

How do I untangle the seedlings when I transplant them?

Larry Hodgson has this tip: scoop them out of the original container with a spoon and set them into a cup of water. As the soil washes off, lift up the plants by their leaves. The roots will untangle all by themselves. Dan's note: use this little trick when you start planting those fibre pot containers of onions in the spring.

When I transplant them, how deep do I set the roots?

Bury the roots and the bottom part of the stem all the way down to the first set of leaves. New roots most often grow from the stem. By the way, consider supplementing the soil not with fertiliser but with some form of mychorihizal product such as Myke.

I hope this covers it G.R. If you’re doing the seed thing this year, it’s time to get cracking.

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