Improve and Guarantee Your Seeds Germination!

The Rub

We’ve all been there. You painstakingly prepare your garden beds, add enough fertilizers, order the perfect seeds, and lovingly tuck them into the soil. Then you wait. And you watch. And you water.

And nothing ever happens.

 

Talk about a major let down! It’s enough to make you want to give up gardening all together. What went wrong? Well, the problem is that as soon as those seeds slip into the soil, it’s essentially impossible to know what happens to them. The most likely culprit is the seed never germinated to begin with.

So what is a gardener to do?

The Solution

The answer? Pre-germination! If you only put germinated seeds into the ground, you are much more likely to have a successful sprouted seed, which will grow into the beautiful plant you always knew it could be. Right? Yes.

Luckily for all of us, there is a simple method that all of us, no doubt, have done at some point in an Elementary Science class. Seeds actually need very little to germinate. The main element necessary is moisture. I live in the desert…guess how fast the top 1/4 inch of soil dries out here on a warm Spring day? I’ve never timed it, but I’m guessing less than an hour after I water my seedlings, that soil is on it’s way to drier than dry! Which means, dried out seeds, no germination, and no food for me. Fortunately, pre-sprouting your seeds saves a great number of disappointments in the gardening department of life.

Tools for the Pre-Sprouting Method

  • Paper Towels (I try to use recycled and non chemical paper towels)
  • Ziplock Plastic Baggie
  • Masking Tape
  • Sharpie
  • Seeds

Ready? This is going to be so easy and quick you’ll wonder why you haven’t been doing it your whole dag gone life.

  1. Soak paper towel and slightly ring out, so it’s not dripping everywhere but very wet
  2. Tap desired quantity of seeds onto wet paper towel
  3. Fold paper towel up into a square and tuck it inside of a ziplock bag
  4. Label the bag with the masking tape and sharpie
  5. Put the baggie in a warm place until germination
  6. REJOICE!

Make sure you check your sprouts every day. I like to open the towel up every few days to make sure none of the seeds are molding, which is rare but can happen.

Once you have sprouted seeds (congrats!) you can carefully unfold the wet paper towel and plant each sprouted seedling according to the packets direction (or just roughly 1 inch apart, if you don’t have a packet with directions).

Some seeds are very tiny and need to be handled more gently. For seeds like carrots and basil, you can either arrange the seeds at the spacing you want on the paper towel, and then plant the whole paper towel along with the seeds.

Or, you can use something like a pencil or scalpel to place each individual seed into it’s place. For example, the basil in the pictures below were so tiny I couldn’t grab them with my fingers, so I used a knife and pencil to place each one where I wanted it. A bit tedious, but again, a for sure germinated seedling!

And that’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed this handy gardening tip and use it to your advantage in all your garden adventures!

Happy Growing!

 

Winter Prep in the Greenhouse

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Over the course of the last four days, I’ve been busy getting my entire greenhouse planted with enough varieties of greens and herbs to feed my family for the Fall, Winter, and Early Spring. Wait….I jumped in a bit prematurely, which is typical of me. Sigh.

First things first. I just want to briefly point out that what I actually have here on the Meyerstead is not a greenhouse in the technical sense. A true greenhouse can be heated and cooled as necessary depending on the outside temperatures. What I have is, in fact, a cold frame, which is just another term for an unheated greenhouse. Just so that no one gets the wrong idea about what we are working with here. A true greenhouse would be quite an undertaking and quite an expense. Also quite unnecessary in my humble opinion. Now, let’s get back to the fun part of this post…

I planted ninety two 16 oz plastic cups, one plant per cup, with the following cold hardy greens:

  1. Tatsoi – 10 cups
  2. Brunswick Cabbage – 9 cups
  3. Minowase Daikon Radish – 4 cups
  4. Verde of Taglio Chard – 9 cups
  5. Russian Red Kale – 9 cups
  6. Vates Kale – 5 cups
  7. Wild Garden Kale – 8 cups
  8. Arugula – 9 cups
  9. Corn Dutch Salad – 8 cups
  10. Parsley – 5 cups

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I have my Clayotonia, also known as Miner Lettuce, planted in two 8″ plastic water catchment trays. You know, those plastic trays you put under your potted plants to catch water? Well, I was out of containers and didn’t want to stop so that’s what they ended up in. They’re one of my favorite salad greens, so hopefully they give a decent show this Fall and Winter.

I found these two extra large pans that are roughly 18″ by 24″ and planted them both with Austrian Winter Peas. These are extra delicious in the dead of Winter and I know they do well. I had a ton of them planted under plastic at my previous house and they went all the way through Spring. Most people use them as a cover crop to fix nitrogen in the soil (great cover crop to plant where you have grown corn, for example) but the shoots taste just like fresh garden peas…which is a surprising treat in a mid winter, home grown salad. I feel they are not done justice planted as a mere cover crop, I prefer them as a food. No surprise there.

20170901_144122.jpgI had some dollar store cat pans lying around from the fodder experiment I had done when we first moved in. I decided to use one for planting my Mustard Greens and a dish pan to plant all of my Spinach. These will mostly be harvested as baby greens, so I planted them pretty dense, as they will not need a lot of room to grow to full size. I will thin as they grow, and as needed, when I harvest them out.

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Finally I planted herbs in terracotta pots. Because I love herbs in terracotta pots, and that’s reason enough…amiright? Sometimes it’s awesome being a grown up. I do what I want. (aha…ha…ha. ahem. rarely true). I have it on good authority that rosemary, cilantro, and parsley are proved to survive and thrive in an unheated greenhouse throughout our zone 5 winters. The rest of these herbs will be experimental to see if they will go all winter. Can you imagine harvesting fresh tarragon in January? Eeep!

  1. Oregano – planted in an 8″ pot
  2. Rosemary – planted in a 12″ pot
  3. Thyme – planted in a 6″ pot
  4. French Tarragon – planted in a 6″ pot
  5. Parsley – planted in a 6″ pot
  6. Cilantro – planted in a 6″ pot

Though this entire first year of everything here is somewhat of an experiment, I am trying something out that I have no idea how it will preform this Winter. I planted Autumn King carrots in four 5 gallon buckets. I also planted Blue Scotch Kale in one of the buckets. The buckets will remain on the ground, in between the barrels, for the winter. I have a plan/idea for next Fall/Winter if these two particular plants do well in this spot.

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I also have a rain barrel in the greenhouse that I will be filling and using to water, to avoid dragging a hose around in the freezing cold of Winter. This will also add extra thermal mass to my greenhouse, a win win! I love winning.

The plants will likely have to be watered every day in the greenhouse, maybe every other day. The point is, a lot. So there needs to be some kind of convenient way to do so, otherwise I will hate my greenhouse, and I don’t want to hate. I’m all about love. Especially when it’s growing food to feed my family. If you decide to go with this handy watering solution…make sure it has a spicket!

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It’s been a great start here for Fall and Winter planting. The soil is warm, the weather has remained warm, and there is plenty of time for seedlings to germinate and get some growth on before the cold of early Winter hits and growth slows. I am already drooling over fresh, homegrown, hearty Winter Salads!

Greenhouse at Last!

Another bucket list item to check off the list! I have always wanted a lovely little greenhouse, made of glass and brick, sitting in the middle of a vast garden in a big open field! Well, I didn’t exactly get the one I’ve dreamed of, but I am SO HAPPY that I have one large enough to grow everything I need for Winter salads and Spring starts!

The funny story behind this greenhouse is that I literally did not even think about it as an option for the first few months we were here. It was dirty, dingy, full of garbage and scraps from the previous owner, and NOT the pretty picture I had envisioned for my dreamy greenhouse space. When the light finally came on, and I put a bit of work and elbow grease into spiffing it up a bit, I found an incredible diamond in the rough!

The first thing I did, after giving it a thorough clean out and scrub down, was fill the 5 white rain barrels my dad had hauled to the property with water for thermal mass. Haven’t heard of it? It’s a very effective (arguably the most effective) system for heating and cooling an “unheated” greenhouse. Here’s a coolio page full of great info about using water for thermal mass in a greenhouse, if you’re interested in looking more into that as an option: http://greenhousegarden.com/thermal-massheat-storage

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Once those were in place, and they will never be moving again, I got to work on the “prettying” up part and bringing bits and pieces of my “ideal” and fitting them into my “practical” and “currently available” greenhouse. Here’s the steps in a nutshell;

Paint EVERYTHING white to reflect as much sun as possible during the Winter months. Another “non-ideal” part of this greenhouse is that it is NOT South facing, it faces West. So I need to make sure I use every beam of light to my complete advantage. White reflects light and the light will bounce off all of the white surfaces until it finds something dark (ahem….plants) to absorb into.

Remove old, nasty, yellowed, disgusting…you get the point…roofing. I replaced the old roofing with a slanted, corrugated, clear glazed greenhouse roofing. Immediate win.

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Put up a shade cloth so the sun doesn’t scorch all life inside the greenhouse…ask me how I know that life doesn’t exist in a scorching hot West facing Summer greenhouse…sacrificed some beautiful seedlings to the greenhouse sun god 🙁  I didn’t get around to actually putting the shade cloth up until about 2 weeks ago, when I planted all of my Fall seedlings and realized they would be smoked the instant their tiny little green heads poked out of the soil. Make sure it’s white, so the UV rays can still get through though! I just nailed mine up and into the roof beams. Ahh….it feels cooler in here already!

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I have always wanted a brick floor greenhouse. Like, always. The space of this greenhouse is narrow and long, not idea for what I wanted to do, which was actually brick flooring and in ground beds. No room for in ground beds with the shelving that was already present and the 5 huge rain barrels, so I settled for as big a brick pathway as space would allow for. I worked through several patterns and narrowed it down to these two options:

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I asked everyone on my facebook and instagram pages which they liked better and the left option was overwhelmingly more popular. So, of course….I went with the one on the right! Muwahahahaha! To be fair….I did love them both but the one on the right was SO much easier and actually did look better and offer a bit more style in the small space I had to work in. I decided to just go with sand as a base, no cement, and got to work. And work it was! Geez! I was thankful for a small space after leveling and laying every single brick by hand! But I LOVE how it turned out!! The antique brick gives it such a sweet rustic touch, doesn’t it?

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PLANT ALL THE THINGS!!! But make sure you have that shade cloth up if temps are still getting up there in the high 70’s even. I have my greenhouse winter greens planted and growing scorch free!! YAY!