One of my favorite tricks is using a board to depress potting soil in a row, then sprinkle and top dress your seeds with that soil — which greatly aids in germination. (Andrew May/For Peninsula Daily News)

One of my favorite tricks is using a board to depress potting soil in a row, then sprinkle and top dress your seeds with that soil — which greatly aids in germination. (Andrew May/For Peninsula Daily News)

A GROWING CONCERN: Sowing the seeds of a successful garden

WHAT ABSOLUTELY PERFECT gardening weather we have been having this last week; with the bountiful snow-pack looking just so beautiful as it drapes over the mountains.

We live in such a gorgeous place and those gorgeous, yet cool mornings have been ideal for your springtime yard and garden.

Spring starting

Stay on top of your lawn because for the next two months it will be at the top of it’s game, growing faster than the weeds for sure.

Fern alert: Go out now in the next 10 days (sooner the better) and cut away all the old fronds because the new fiddles (leaves) are ready to unwind.

How about a science project to help unwind some of that mental curiosity and boredom your school age children, or any family member may be having?

Learning how to germinate then sow your own seeds is a wonderful learning experience and a whole new appreciation.

Since I am working on my own new Corona Garden, germinating seeds is both essential and economical.

Essential because rather than having ten broccoli all at once or a lot of radishes and lettuce, then none; the ability to germinate the seeds of plants I need and when is the key for sustainability.

It’s critical.

In the case of radishes, greens or lettuce, a row or container every 10 days would be perfect.

I would have an endless supply until November.

Things like broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, and beets — try starting new seeds every 21 to 30 days and harvest well into autumn.

Now economically, seeds are 10 times cheaper because the cost of one or two seed packs is the cost of that crop for most of the year.

And again economical because if you sowed that seed in its timely manner, then you will not have to purchase that vegetable for “the season.” You can social distance from the produce aisle.

Germination is actually the shortest of all the life cycles of the plant — by far.

In the most basic of terms; it is when the seed sprouts, the seed cracks open due to an internal change of structure caused by required amounts of heat, moisture and light.

And there is the rub — required amounts of heat, moisture and perhaps light.

This is why many seeds such as beans, squash or cucumbers would do very poorly if sown now. The ground temperature is too cold as are our daytime temperatures.

I did sow pole beans this week in 6-inch pots that I will keep indoors until they sprout and then move them in and out to the warm sunny concrete pad until I plant them in June.

I do this work because pole beans are a “long” crop until harvest, so I want nice tall 24-inch plants that are already 40 days old when I plant them June 1.

The regular bush beans I will germinate May 1, then move them in and out until June because the soil is too cold as is the air.

Germination definitely requires that you keep the soil moist — especially the top 1-inch or less of soil depending on the depth of the seed.

As the seed germinates, and it needs to be moist to do so, it has little if any true root system, so being in contact with moist soil is crucial.

The carrots I sowed this week are only one quarter of an inch deep so the soil, exposed to the full sun, will be misted every few hours for ideal germination.

You do not have to keep the whole area and depth moist, just that first dry top 1 inch.

This is an absolute must for high germination rates.

A trick I like to deploy, and one that also greatly aids in the versatility of my seedlings, is to purchase a big bag or two of a “moisture-control ” potting soil.

I then press down a thin slat of board into pre-watered soil and make a depression slightly deeper than that seed requires.

After sprinkling in some of that wonderful potting soil, I sow in the seeds then top dress to the surface level with more moisture-control soil and water in well.

For me this makes a huge difference and extra seedlings that are too close I can pull out easily for transplanting or giving to neighbors family and friends in need.

Remember too, beans, peas and nasturtiums benefit from soaking overnight in a jar with soil and lukewarm water.

Also remember to add sweet peas, nasturtiums and sweet alyssum to your garden or other bright flowers to attract pollinators.

Your garden will enjoy that and you will so enjoy the flowers.

Stay well all.


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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