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Starting From Seed

Posted by Madelaine Clerk on

With the current state of things, it feels more important than ever to ensure our communities have access to nutritious food. COVID19 has meant a shift for small farms and their consumers, including access to markets. While we are committed for our food to reach you through our CSA and online orders, we also want to support you through sharing more educational content, so you can do this on your own.

Elana will be sharing video content and photos through Instagram (@citybeetfarm), while I (Maddy) will be writing blog posts that you can follow along, come back to and reference. What better time for some solitude in the garden and practicing self-sufficiency? 

Where to Start

We have been seeding indoors for a few weeks now, but no need to stress if you haven't gotten to it yet! The first week of March we seeded onions and our first round of scallions. In the last two weeks, we've started:

  • Kale

  • Broccolini

  • Chard

  • Flowers (Ammi, Statice, Strawflower, Rudbeckia)

  • Tomatoes

  • Eggplant

  • Peppers

  • Parsley 

  • Kohlrabi

  • Fennel 

  • Lettuce (Salanova)

We ordered our seeds from Johnny's and Osborne Seeds this year, and like to order from BC Eco Seed Co-op and Adaptive Seeds when we can.

We start our seeds in cell flats, which vary in size. The cell size you start your trays in should consider how much time the plant will spend in the cell and the space it needs for the root system to develop. While most of our plants are started in 11 inch x 21 inch trays that house 72, 98 or 128 cells. For home gardeners, small individuals pots will work just fine.

Potting Mix

The quality of the soil that you seed into is important and your soil needs the right drainage, water retention, pH, fertilization and other soil characteristics. It might be more convenient for you to buy a top quality potting mix or, like us, try making your own. Our recipe includes:

1. 4.2 gallon bucket of peat moss
2. 2/3 of the 4.2 gallon bucket of vermiculite
3. 1/2 cup bone meal
4. 1/4 cup kelp meal
5. 1/4 cup blood meal
6. 1/4 cup lime
7. ~1 gallons of worm castings (or a generous amount)

We fill up each tray with potting mix and then level it out. From there, we will apply some pressure with another tray on top to create space to seed into. We then drop our seeds into each cell, taking into consideration germination rates. From there, we cover lightly with potting soil and water them in. 

Most plants will require one seed per cell, but with older seeds, you may want to consider planting more seeds and then thinning if multiple germinate. We also use this technique for seeds with lower germination rates, like chard. 

Another fun technique is seeding bunches of scallions together. We seed 8 per cell and transplant them as one pod. This saves time later as they grow together and are harvested in a ready bunch!

Light

We seed into trays and start our plants inside under grow lights until they germinate and are ready to go into our green house. This also helps us in the early months as its costly for us to heat a greenhouse.

Our greenhouse is unheated, but it gets strong sun exposure during the day and has some reflective insulation to protect our plants from the cooler nights in the early part of the season. We are lucky with Vancouver's milder temperatures.

Some plants require light to germinate, such as some lettuces or flowers. These plants may want to be covered with a lighter amount of soil or vermiculite. Read the packages and look out for "needs light to germinate". 

Watering

Watering takes some patience. The water will need to penetrate the soil and make sure its reaching deep into the cells. So, do your best to ensure you are not just watering superficially. This same principle will apply throughout the season!

When watering, keep a delicate balance of adequate watering, but not too often as too much moisture can lead to fungal disease like "damping off". 

After caring for the seedlings, eventually they will be transplanted into your garden! Stay tuned for our next post on how to prep your garden beds for seeding.Our earliest transplanting dates are set for mid-April and we won't begin direct seeding into the ground for a couple weeks, when the soil temperature has risen and our beds are prepped with compost. 

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