(Seed) Starting Again

Every January, when the busy-ness of the holidays passes, I start to feel the pull to put my hands in the dirt. This January and February, with its warmer temperatures and sunny days, I’ve been feeling the desire to grow even more deeply.

On top of that, I’ve started a new job at a local regenerative farm. My desk looks out on their massive greenhouse, and every day I love walking through it and seeing all the baby plants. It makes me think – I want to grow all the things!

My first seed project actually began this fall, before the holidays. I rediscovered some pawpaw seeds that I had tucked into my fridge a year ago. The seeds of this native Ohio fruit need a wet, cool stratification to germinate. I have had good success with cleaning them when I eat the fruit and immediately wrapping them in a moist paper towel. Tuck the wrapped seeds in a plastic ziplock, seal it up and put it in the back of the fridge for at least a few months. When I find them again, I unwrap them and tuck them into a large container of moistened soil. As they germinate and set a few leaves, I move them into individual pots. Now I have a small pawpaw forest waiting to be planted out. I’ll probably keep them in pots another year, up-potting them as needed. Planting out larger trees helps to prevent Josh from mowing them down (on accident, I’m sure!).

In early January, I was shopping at Sam’s one day and found an Aerogarden 360 calling my name. During a visit with my college roommate Claire the week before, she’d mentioned how well hers worked. It seemed like serendipity that I saw one while doing my grocery shopping, and I couldn’t pass it up!

The Aerogarden systems are intended to grow veggies and herbs hydroponically, year-round, inside. I set mine up with pods for tomatoes, Genovese basil, Thai basil, parsley and dill. They germinated quickly and took off. I’ve never raised such dense, hearty tomato seedlings! It has really satisfied my desire for green growing things during the earliest winter months. In mid-February the tomato plants have flower buds on them and I’m eager to see what kind of fruits they produce, maybe with a little help pollinating (a toothbrush can do wonders).

In looking at the Aerogarden website at other systems, I discovered they offer a germination tray to start seeds for the garden. This got my wheels spinning! On my next grocery trip I got a 2nd 360 and ordered the seed starting tray from the website along with more soil pods. I put some of my longest day-to-harvest seeds in it to start: leeks, cauliflower, and celery.

The cauliflower came up within 2 days, with leeks following several days later! I think my celery seeds were too old because they never came up. I added arugula and spinach to those spots and the arugula was up in a couple days too. Once they seedlings get a first set of true leaves, I’ll move them into small pots and start a new round.

I also started some seeds about a week ago in soil trays and set them on the heated floor in the living room. This works just as well as any heat mat and saves me from buying more equipment. The broccoli came up super fast and got a little spindly. I should have kept a better eye on it, but I didn’t anticipate its quick growth.

I set up a shelf in our office to move the trays under grow lights as they germinate. When this fills up, I’ll set up a table too.

Lastly, I’ve been watching the Floret Flower Farming course and getting all kinds of new ideas. I was inspired by this to try some cuttings from my fig and bay trees. I cut pieces, dipped them in rooting hormone and set them in moist soil.

In case you need just a little more inspiration to get growing, here’s a beautiful poem by my favorite – Mary Oliver…

More Honey Locust

Any day now

the branches

of the honey locust

will be filled

with white fountains;

in my hands

I will see

the holy seeds

and a sweetness

will rise up

from those petal-bundles

so heavy

I must close my eyes

to take it in,

to bear

such generosity….

I hope that you too

know the honey locust,

the fragrance

of those fountains;

and I hope that you too will pause

to admire the slender trunk,

the leaves, the holy seeds,

the ground they grow from

year after year

with striving and patience;

and I hope that you too

will say a word of thanks

for such creation

out of the wholesome earth,

which would be, and dearly is it needed,

a prayer for all of us.

I hope you will feel the same gratitude as me for the seeds and the growth and the flowers and the food. Happy (seed) starting!

a prayer for all of us.

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