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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gardening: Thawing ground means it’s time to start seeds

If the ground is too cold to put seeds in, cover it with plastic a couple of weeks ahead of planting to capture the sun’s warmth. Here a special solar plastic is covering beds. Black plastic will also work.  (Pat Munts/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Pat Munts For The Spokesman-Review

Maybe, just maybe, winter is leaving us. Some of you are probably able to get into your yards now to start clean up. The rest of us who are still buried in snow are just going to have to putter at the edges of garden beds until the ground thaws.

This all means that I’m cleaning up my winter projects and starting seeds. One project that is winding down is my experiment with the hydroponic garden kit. You can grow enough produce to make a difference. I grew dill, basil, parsley, mint, chives and thyme. The most successful was the parsley and basil. The mint plant is blooming and very tasty while the dill was unruly in the small space. Next time around, I’ll grow parsley, basil and some lettuces. We actually had enough parsley to make two nights of tabouli, a salad of chopped parsley and bulgar wheat seasoned with onion, garlic and lemon juice.

My seed starting is going well with only a few pots not coming up. Some of that is because the seed was too old. If you have this problem, an easy way to test the viability of seed is to place 10 to 15 seeds in a damp paper towel for a few days. After the time has passed, unroll the towel and count how many seeds germinated. If only half or less of the seeds sprouted, they are still usable. Just sow them thickly to make up the difference.

Seeds won’t germinate for several other reasons besides age. Seeds that are planted too deeply in the soil don’t have enough energy to push their shoots to the surface and will die trying. Read the directions on the packet carefully. Most small seeds like carrot, lettuce and beets are barely covered with soil while bigger seeds like corn and beans are planted an inch or 2 deep.

If the soil is too cold when you plant, the seeds are likely to rot before they sprout. Again, read the seed packet for the conditions the seeds need. You can warm the soil by covering it with black plastic a couple of weeks ahead of planting to overcome some of this. Corn and beans are particularly sensitive to cold soil so wait until early June to seed these.

Avoid planting seeds in soggy soil as they will rot if its too wet. This is where raised garden beds are perfect in a wet spring. They drain quickly leaving a perfect seed bed.

Lastly, critters just love freshly planted seeds and are very adept at pulling them out of the soil. Songbirds, quail, crows, turkeys, squirrels and mice like nothing better than the banquet you planted for them. If this is a problem in your garden, cover the seed rows with floating row cover until the seeds are up and too big to be pulled out. My thanks to my friend Ed Hume for these suggestions.