Thinking of Spring Seedlings

Even though it’s still very cold and the winter planted veges have barely moved, now is the time to think about seed sowing for spring and summer. In this part of the world we have to watch out for frosts, so the best bet is to sow seeds then transplant as seedlings when the danger of frost has definitely passed. This can be as late as November or even early December, but with the amount of winter rain and water-filled soil, heavy frosts are less likely than in drier years. We also have to watch out for frosts at the other end of the season, which can curtail a promising season of tomatoes or pumpkins; another reason to plant advanced seedlings.

It takes around 6 to 8 weeks to grow seedlings from seed, so now is the time to start thinking, if not acting. Use a quality compost or seedraising mix that is free-draining and keep moist, but not over- wet. Large seeds are the easiest to grow; cover them with soil -about double the width of the seed thick – and space them about 8 – 10cm apart so the roots won’t get too entangled and damaged when you transplant. Smaller seeds can be scattered on the surface and then covered with a fine sprinkling of soil or compost. Thin them when they reach the two leaf stage.

Some seeds need at least 20 degrees soil temperature to germinate, so think about adapting the growing conditions to achieve this. Find somewhere north-facing and warm for best results, or you can raise them in a poly igloo or hothouse, even the kitchen window sill can do nicely. 

The planting calendar developed by Maria Thun holds its own for seed planting – so sowing seeds in the ‘sign’ of that plant, eg. fruit sign for tomatoes, leaf sign for lettuce, root sign for spuds, etc. My own experience is rapid germination, as little as 2 days for mesclun seeds, and hardier plants. (It’s good to harvest in the particular sign as well, though not always practical if you are craving a salad on a ‘root’ day).

The Thun calendar (and used in Brian Keats’) is based on the lunar cycle as the moon moves through the constellations of the zodiac – it’s called the sidereal cycle. The zodiac forms a star ‘band’ which is fixed. The moon, sun and planets travel, or ‘dance’ through it. So when the moon moves through libra, aquarius or gemini, the ‘air’ signs, these dates correspond with ‘air’ or ‘flower’ plants – broccoli, cauliflower, globe artichoke and flowers of all persuasions.

So, earth signs: taurus, virgo, capricorn =‘root’ days; water signs: pisces, scorpio, cancer = ‘leaf’ days; and fire signs: aries, leo, sagittarius = ‘fruit’ or ‘seed’ days.

More info on planting dates for september are on the Garden Notes page. Happy sowing!

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