Learning to grow from seed
It’s Spring! My friend, Marie, inspires me so much with her courtyard garden fitted with raised garden beds she and her husband built. Each year she plants a garden and this one is all from seed. Here she shares a few easy secrets. Also, which flower seeds transplant best, building a new garden bed and attracting honey bees.
Marie grows lots of ‘maters,’ peppers, squash and salad and also has a winter root garden. She starts her seeds in a cold frame, early in March and sows some seeds right in the raised beds. She adds big bags of manure to her raised beds and fertilizes every two weeks with a water-soluble mix.
Marie grows tall sunflowers around the edge of her garden to provide shade on hot summer days and these are also grown from seed. Now, after a few years the sunflowers are all volunteers on each end of the garden with veggies in the center.
Marie sowed an old wheelbarrow full of happy Johnny Jump ups one year and now they self seed each Spring! Can you tell that she’s a friend from ‘Flea Market Gardening?’
Sowing warm season vegetable seeds for transplanting
Mention summer gardens and the first thing to come up is which tomatoes are you growing? Year after year tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables grown.
March is the month I sow tomatoes, cukes and pepper seeds for my first round of transplants. I sow another round in late spring: our summers are hot, it’s best to sow a second, later batch for harvest in late summer and early fall. The same plants you put out in spring will be scraggly come September.
I have gotten big juicy tomatoes all the way into December!
There are grape tomatoes as small as a dime and big beefsteaks like Mortgage Lifter and Brandywine that can weigh well over a pound, so try different kinds!
I sow peppers first, timing them to be 8-weeks-old at transplanting. Next I sow tomatoes and eggplants, timing the tomatoes to be 6-weeks-old at transplanting. The eggplants go in the ground a couple weeks after the tomatoes.
Companion plants to encourage bees
To encourage honey and native bees, plant flowers around your garden. Bees are attracted to any flowers that bloom, but you can guarantee the bees arrival if you plant herbs like rosemary, lavender and thyme. Bees also love Black-eyed Susans, Coreopsis, any sage or salvia and Lamb’s ear.
- Alyssum Lobularia maritima
- Bachelor’s Buttons, Cornflower Centaurea cyanus
- California Poppy Eschscholzia
- Candytuft Iberis
- Coreopsis (Annual) Calliopsis Coreopsis tinctoria
- Cosmos spp.
- Flax Linum
- Forget-Me-Nots Cynoglossum
- Gloriosa Daisy Rudbeckia hirta
- Hyacinth Bean Lablab
- Larkspur Consolida
- Love-in-a-Mist Nigella damascena
- Lupine Lupinus
- Moss Rose Portulaca spp.
- Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus
- Pot Marigold Calendula
- Snow-on-the-Mountain Euphorbia marginata
- Spider Flower Cleome spp.
Starting a brand new flower bed
This is the ‘no dig’ method I love because who like to dig? Lay out an edge around an area for your new bed,…I use a hose, then remove it, or I edge with bricks, stones or branches. Remove all the surface weeds, either by hand picking, hoeing or with a weedkiller spray.
Then water the area well,…dig down to check that the soil is wet about two inches down. If not, you can loosen the soil with a shovel, fork or handled cultivator. Then cover the entire area with about two good inches of an organic mulch like pine bark, bagged mulch of any kind, and even oak leaves. This will begin to attract worms and insects that will ‘do your digging’ for you! It’s amazing just how wonderfully this works.
Before planting just turn up the soil so the mulch is mixed into the first few inches of ground. When sowing seeds, they need to be uncovered with mulch until they sprout. The sun has to be able to reach them.
*If you’re planting from transplants or sixpaks seedlings you can skip this step!
Sow your seeds and cover with a half inch of soil and tamp down firmly. I step on my sown seeds.
Keep watered and wait!
Remove weeds, always,…a constant.
Wildflowers from seed
Though I normally sow wildflower seeds in Fall so they can chill and soak in the rain, it’s not too late to sow them in any weed free area or container. I over-plant my bulb pots with wildflowers each year. These bulb pots get set aside in my shed area after the bulbs bloom, but sowing wildflower seeds, or in fact any cool season annual over top really lengthens the time that they put on a show!
Wildflowers don’t need improved soil, but do loosen the soil if you have hard clay.
Decomposed granite on the other hard is the perfect ‘soil’ to sow wildflowers. They love the good drainage. You can add a bit of fertilizer to improve the seeds nourishment.
The best time to sow seeds is just before a rain so keep watch on the weather.
As you sow your seeds, step on them to get good soil contact. Hungry birds may spot them, so you can rake them lightly and step on them again. I also feed the birds away from where I sow seeds to give them an easy food source far from my seed bed.