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Starting Food from Seeds can be Hit and Miss

Last night I read a blog post that explained why only about 40% of my seeds actually got started.

The list of things as explained by The Free Range Life blog, that might have ruined the seeds I started both indoors and then outside:

  1. Incorrect temperature - different seeds have different needs - I think I planted too soon and it didn't get warm enough soon enough for germination

  2. Old seeds - germination rates reduce with time (this I had discovered with some beans)

  3. Incorrect watering - don't drown them but don't let them dry out either

  4. Planting depth and light - too far down and they don't see the light, too exposed and they dry out

  5. Soil doesn't have enough nutrients, is too dense.

Everyone says that all you need to get a garden started is to put a seed into some soil. But that is only the case for about 5% of the seeds out there. Nasturtiums are a pretty good bet. Most lettuce is pretty unforgiving and I've had great success with the flower called 4-oclocks. the past couple of years.

potting shed with seed starting containers
Seed starting in the Spring

I have corn and cucumbers, carrots and beans that have started well but damned if I can get peppers to grow. Strangely, sunflowers have been a struggle and native wildflowers seem to be a no go, again. Then there are the 20 or so pumpkin seeds I planted of which only two have sprouted.

I had such high hopes this year with my new potting shed and its south-facing windows. But I think I let my enthusiasm get the better of me. I started way too soon so it never got consistently warm enough. I probably watered too much and too harshly (should be a gentler spray vs a pour from a watering can) and I could have been more exact in my seed depth. I used a good generic seed starting soil but I have learned that some seeds prefer more acidic vs alkaline soils to get going.

However, this was my first year with this particular set up so I must give myself a little slack. I think the most important take away is that if I want this process to succeed I need to get more scientific, do more research and take notes on what works and what doesn't.

Now the seeds that did take are doing really well and I am thrilled. It is an absolute joy to sit out in the garden and watch things grow. We have been enjoying our spinach and arugula so much that I have planted another batch of seeds so that we can have a constant source.

But the second post I read last night described all the pests that could now bring down what success we have had. I almost went into a panic attack. All that hard work, all that hope, to be destroyed by pests we can hardly see. For some reason this year it's different. This year I really want to garden to thrive.

I have always planted marigolds and nasturtium to keep away certain pests. And this year I had to put down some cayenne pepper and dog hair to discourage whatever was eating my cilantro. I am determined to use only natural deterrents so there may be eggshells, dish soap spray and little cages in the days to come. I am trying hard to not have another fence around the garden but we will have to play it by ear.

Ensuring that the garden continues to grow will take diligence. It means learning what each plant needs in terms of nutrients and sunshine and it also means paying attention when the pests do come calling.

Gardening is not about immediate gratification. If you go down this road and you want dividends, you need to commit to the long haul. It is summed up well by Fabienne Fredrickson:

The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit. Be patient and stay the course.

No one ever said growing your own food would be easy but once you have eaten a tomato, just picked off the vine and still warm from the sun, there is no going back.

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