Well, I've given you PLENTY of time since our last post about this, to have your seeds ready. So let's get to planting and make sure we have the best chance of filling that cornucopia. First, let me say, planting is as east as it is complicated...if that makes sense. Let me explain. Now that you've chosen what to plant, we have to decide WHERE in our garden to place it, to give it the best chance. This is the tricky part. Different plants need different amounts of spacing as we discussed before. Though size doesn't matter in regards to the amount of space it needs, it does matter in regards to amount of additional shade it might add to your other plants. If you need tips on planning where the plants should go, see Seed Season.
Ok, lets recap. You have the soil, you have the veggies selected, you have purchased the seeds from a trusted source or harvested your own, you have determined the layout and spacing, so what's next? First, let's make sure the seeds are still ALIVE! Lol it sounds silly, but if seeds aren't stored properly, they could die and therefore never sprout when planted. That's the most frustrating part. Let's be honest, everything that's living or capable of living, has a lifespan, seeds are definitely in that category. So, how do we KNOW if our seeds have died? Ideally, seeds should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. So, when they come in, make sure you label them and store them in the fridge, as it's an easy cool, dry and dark place check mark in your house. Since you're probably not the first person to handle the seeds, you have to ensure others have also handled them correctly. When received, the seeds should be dry, in an airtight vessel and blocked from sunlight. Most of the time, they'll arrive in some sort of paper envelope to help absorb any moisture that may get close to them and allow it to be releases instead of being trapped. Seeds CAN be stored in the freezer for sometimes up to 10 years, given the right conditions. So if you're coming to the end of a seeds viable cycle and don't have space this year in your garden, consider that as an option to buy some time.
Now that we know how they should be received and stored, so second, we have to test that they will actually germinate. Germination is simply the seed being willing to sprout and become a fully mature plant. The most basic way to do this might surprise you. Think 5th or 6th grade science class lol Moisten a paper towel so it's damp but not sopping wet (Is sopping a midwest or down south phrase? I don't hear it AT ALL in the northeast lol). Place 5-10 seeds in a row onto the paper towel, then fold it so the row stays in tact. Put those seeds in a ziplock or sealed plastic bag and label it with whatever seeds are in it. You can do more than one type of seed per bag, however, only do one type of seed per damp towel. Lay the bag flat onto an area that has room temp feel (70 degrees). A sunny window ledge is ideal if possible but not necessary. Check it daily to see if the seeds germinate ensuring the towel remains damp. Usually germination will happen around day 5. On day 10, count how many germinated. The amount germinated from the 5 or 10 will give you an idea of how many in the package will sprout. 100 seeds, 3/5 or 6/10 germinate, 60% chance the seeds planted will germinate. If less than 70% germinate, get new seeds. Be sure to plant the ones that germinated though, no sense in wasting them right? For more detailed instructions, click here.
Now that we've got the good seeds, let's get them in the ground so we can eat...in a 6-15 weeks...YEP! Just because you plant it, don't expect to see the harvest tomorrow, or the day after that...or the day after that...or the week after that lol If nothing else, gardening teaches you patience, think watching the grass grow...but more delicious...unless it's lemongrass...cause that's pretty delicious. I bet you're wondering what's the best strategy to planting your seeds so they have the best chance of escaping their earthly tomb right? If you lost the seed package, which typically has the recommended seed depth on it, don't fret, it's a pretty simple equation that you don't have to be good at math to figure out.
It's generally thought, that most seeds shouldn't be planted more than 2 times their diameter into the ground. Some people say the rule is 1/4 inch, however, if a mustard seed is far smaller than 1/8th of an inch. If you planted it that deep, it might not reach the surface in time for the plant to receive the nutrients it needs to survive the season. On the other side, a zucchini seed is much larger and if you plant it a quarter inch down, some of the crown may be exposed, drying the seed and possibly burning it before it has a chance to establish roots. Now, when you have something like a mustard seed in size, you can place those on top of the soil and just brush a thin layer of dirt on top of them. No matter what, DON'T COMPACT THE SOIL YOU PLACE ON TOP OF THE SEEDS BY PACKING IT DOWN! JUST to confuse you further, there are exceptions to ALL of these rules lol. YES, there are seeds that need light to germinate and only require being placed on the surface of the soil and simply pressed to ensure they're making contact with the moist soil. Dill and some lettuce are a few.
Lastly for today, the key to ALL life, as we know it, is WATER! How much and how often should I water my seeds? For that matter, WHERE should I water my seeds? This can be complicated, so I'll give you the general idea and give you a link which can explain the fine details much better than I can.
If plants are in raised beds, planter boxes or directly in the ground, the seeds need about 1 inch of water per week. Aside from rain that may come that week, you can usually accomplish this with 3 waterings a week based on the soil mix we spoke about in Double Double Soil and ...Manure. If you used a different blend or have a different amount of natural composting materials, like sticks, leaves, etc lining the base of your planter, etc, it changes the amount of moisture being held or produced as the materials decompost. So now that I've thoroughly confused you with my kung fu, whats an easy way to tell if my garden needs water? Feel your soil. If the soil can form a ball, it has enough moisture and doesn't need watering. This is critical to keep in mind because different zones/ climate regions, produce different amounts of heat depending on the season. So you may have to water far more in Georgia during the summer than in Michigan during the summer. You may not have to water much at all in Seattle due to the amount of rain they receive lol If you're planting your germinated seeds from the paper towel, water twice a day until the seeds have established roots.
It's best to water early in the morning. This way, the seeds have time to absorb the water before it evaporates in the warmer part of the day. This also gives time for the excess water to evaporate. IF the soil remains too moist for too long, you risk your seeds rotting. You can also water in the evening, just be sure you pay attention to the soil feel as after a day of sun, you may need a bit more water. If it's light rain, you may still need to water your garden. Again, go feel the soil to ensure it received enough water from the rain if you're unsure.
Well DUH, on the plant...right?! Contrary to all of the cartoons, tv shows and pictures, the best place to water a plant is NOT on the leaves and flowers and fruit, but, near the base of the plant. If you water the above mentioned, you risk burning the plant in those various places as the water heats up in the sun. You also risk plant disease by watering the leaves. Move the leaves, etc aside and place the water directly on the soil. This is why, if you ever see those copper or plastic pipes on the surface of the soil in gardens, the drip irrigation lines are hovering just above the surface of the soil.
A quick note: Not every seed needs the same amount of water. For a much more in depth watering explanation and per seed water amounts, click here.