century ago, gardeners had their choice of hundreds of
varieties of fruits and vegetables. Now, 80 years later,
the options are vastly limited.
food chain, says Contra Costa Master Gardener Marian
Woodard, has been built on a food distribution chain
with commercials growers focusing on fewer varieties to
meet harvesting and shipping demands.
way to increase the variety in our own gardens and
diets, Woodard says, is for home gardeners to expand
their selections by growing different plants from seeds
are some tips:
Before planting seeds, find out how easy they are to
germinate, what special steps may be needed, how long
before it can be transplanted, whether you have enough
time in the growing season, and what special materials
— heat mats, grow lights, seed trays — you may need.
Planting your seeds in trays or pots, instead of sowing
in the garden, offers many advantages, Woodard says. You’ll
save water, space and time, and give the young seedlings
a better chance of survival by growing in a controlled
environment away from insects, slugs and snails.
Be sure to read the seed packet or do research before
planting. You’ll need to know when to plant, the
number of days to germinate, and what type of soil,
water and sun it will need.
Seeds will need a sterile medium to grow in, which will
prevent problems such as dampening off. You can buy a
medium, Woodard says, but be careful that it lives up to
its packaging. Check for bad smells and read the
ingredients to make sure it is made from sustainable
You can make your own by combining 50 percent compost
with 50 percent soil. Add in coir and perlite to improve
the mix and help it retain water.
Before starting, gather all the materials you’ll need.
Clean tools and trays or pots.
Moisten potting medium.
Use rain water if you have it, or treat municipal water
with humic acid, which will remove chloramine, a
chemical used to making drinking water safer for human
Have plant identification markers and a pencil. It’s
important to label your seed starts so you’ll know
what you’ve planted, and pencil tends to hold up
better than ink.
Use a calendar or notebook to note the day you planted
and other future details. This will help you in the
future if you decide to grow this plant again.
Keep seeds moist but not wet.
Check the trays or pots once or twice a day. Seeds and
seedling that dry out will die.
When the seeds have grown and are ready to transplant
into beds or outdoor pots, be sure the beds are
seedlings from the sun with shade cloth. If your
planting in colder weather, protect plants for the chill
with frost cloth.
Sometimes it makes more sense to plant seedlings
purchased from a nursery. You’ll still need to ask
questions, however, and do some research.
Look for plants that have an overall healthy appearance
Check the roots.
Ask if the plant was grown organically, and whether it
was treated with systemic insecticides that are harmful
to beneficial insects.
Feed your seedlings with compost, compost tea, worm
castings, worm leachate, fish hydrolysate or organic
Seedlings do well with a foliar spray of nutrient