In the Garden:
Lower South
April, 2010
Regional Report

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Drip irrigation can help maintain even soil moisture, ensuring a good start for seeds.

Tips for Spring Garden Seeding

Seeds are an economical way to start a garden. There is something therapeutic about growing plants from seed. It is an act of hope and faith to drop a small, dry apparently lifeless bit of plant material in the soil with the vision of a harvest to come.

In addition to the fact that seeds are much less expensive than transplants, I like to save seed from my open pollinated plant varieties, thus adding to the savings. Growing plants from seed offers us gardeners greater variety selection too. The latest varieties of vegetables and flowers are seldom available as transplants, and many of my personal old-time favorites are likewise only available from seeds.

Seeds are the main way that plants propagate themselves, as any weed will quickly demonstrate! In fact, seeds are so easy that it is frustrating when our attempts to start something from seed falls short of success. Here are a few tips on starting seeds out in the garden to help avoid some of the common pitfalls.

Use fresh, viable seeds. While some kinds of seed last for years, others may be viable only for a year or two. Storage conditions also greatly affect seed life. Cool, dry storage is best. If you have extra seed you want to keep from one season or year to the next, store it dry in a tightly sealed jar placed in the refrigerator.

If you are not sure about a packet of seed's viability you can test it by placing 10 seeds on a wet paper towel and folding it over. Then place it in a plastic bag and set in a warm place for a few days to a week or so. Check it and count the number of seeds that are sprouting to determine percent viability.

Seeds germinate best in a well prepared soil. Break up or rake away any clods and mix in a little finely screened compost. The goal is to build a fine textured surface so you can maintain good seed-to-soil contact and uniform planting depth.

If the soil is dry, water the seed bed prior to planting. This provides a bank account of moisture that will "wick" toward the surface to maintain moist conditions around the germinating seeds and growing seedlings.

Seeds need to be planted at the proper depth. A rule of thumb is to plant a seed 2 to 4 times its width deep. Some seeds require light for germination. If in doubt consult the seed packet for such information.

Planting a little extra with the intent of thinning out the extras later is a good insurance policy; however don't overdo it. I have made the mistake of planting carrots too thickly, resulting in a tedious thinning chore and leaving the chosen survivors with considerable root damage in the process.

Seeds need good contact with the surrounding soil. Firm the soil around seeds after planting to ensure better germination. Watering the seed bed after sowing also helps to settle the soil in around the seeds.

Keep the soil moist but not soggy wet. It is critical to maintain adequate moisture during the germination process. If they dry out even temporarily during germination, seeds will die. Light, regular waterings are the best way to ensure a good stand of seedlings. Use the fine misting setting to wet the seed bed and avoid blasting the seeds out of the soil.

These are just a few seed starting tips to help get off to a good start. If you have some more to share with other readers, let's hear from you!


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