Spring Planting

Spring! Depending on where you live, March might be time to plant tomatoes and cantaloupes (Southern states) or to cry into your seed catalogs as yet another snowstorm rolls through (Northern states). It’s by no means balmy in the Pacific Northwest, but nice enough to plant heartier things like brassicas and greens. And so I did.

As many of you know, my husband and I are currently in what I like to call “exile”—in a rental home in the city, trying to regroup for our next strike into the country. There are no vegetable garden beds on this property, so I am making do by sneaking in a few things along the flowered fence line. My motivation when picking things to plant is: What can I grow in not-perfect conditions that is expensive to buy in the store? Lettuce, dill, arugula (rocket), parsley and basil.

Parsley seeds need to soak for 24 hours; dill doesn’t transplant well so it will go straight into the ground. The rest go in pots.

Soaking parsley seeds in wet paper towels

Soaking parsley seeds in wet paper towels

You do not need to buy fancy seed-starter kits to get some plants going. Whatever you use just needs to be sturdy and to drain. I have seen people twist newspaper into little cups but have never tried it for fear that, once they’re wet, they will fall apart. (Plus, where does one get newspaper anymore? Ha.) Instead, I took a few empty yogurt and sour cream containers and punched holes in the bottom with a box-cutter—et voilá!

Cutting drain-holes

Cutting drain-holes

If possible, use starter mix; to save money I just bought regular planting soil. The reason for starter mix is it’s sifted to keep big chunks of vermiculite and organic matter out. A pea-sized hunk of bark wouldn’t bother a grown plant but it could stop completely the development of a tender seedling. So I go through and pick out the biggest chunks.

DSCN5358

Clearing growth-hazards

Getting starts moisture is tricky; you can’t just dump a stream of water on them or you’ll uncover the seeds or knock the seedlings over. The best is to use a spray bottle (preferably a bottle that has held drinking water). Lacking a spray bottle, I held my fingers over a glass and forced the water to drip out slowly. Until the seedlings have roots there is no need to water the entire pot of soil; just the top inch is fine.

Some of you experienced gardeners may be saying: Basil? In March? Indeed, basil is a very tender plant that doesn’t take kindly to anything under 65 degrees. Never fear; I’m going to keep those pots inside—probably for three months!

Before ....

Before ….

After!

After!

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