By Madelynn Arnold
It’s a critical time for Spring garden planning and AOG is gearing up to host our annual Plant Sale on 21st March! Our dedicated Saturday group met safely around picnic tables this morning to talk seed starting, share tips and share seeds!
Like the beginning of each month, we started by checking our trusty local sources, most available on our website.
I also wanted to share this chart in Trisha Shirey’s book on the temps required for germination:
Some plants, like our beloved tomatoes, require warm temps to get started. If you’re starting tomatoes, peppers, eggplants now, you’ll need a germination mat to warm soil temps under the seed trays + 6-8 hours of “sun” from grow lights above seed trays.
After selecting Spring crops, read your seed packets- before and after purchasing! We looked at the seed packet information for Bloomsdale Spinach and Evergreen Hardy White scallions/bunching onions. Direct sow is recommended for both, saving precious space under grow lights. In the Fall, we look for “Frost Tolerant” varieties and in the Spring look for “Heat Tolerant” or “Slow Bolt” varieties- especially for cilantro and lettuces.
I brought examples for three methods that I’ve found successful. Don’t skip using a fresh potting soil or mix your own. John Dromgoole recommends equal parts of Earthworm castings + Dairy manure compost + granite sand. We’re also liking the Ocean Forest Potting Mix from Fox Farm that Erin H. recommended. See Episode 16 from Fall on our website or YouTube channel.
When you see several sets of leaves, you’ll need to transplant seedlings to a 4” pot. As plants grow larger, check charts for the correct window for planting transplants outdoors.
If it’s too early, especially for tomatoes, you have two options:
This time of year, I start Marigolds and Nasturtiums in seed trays. Even though I haven’t settled on vegetables for our Square Foot design for Spring, these two are standard companion plants for organic pest control. Both are low growing so good to plant on the edges as they won’t block the sun for larger veggies. Marigolds have a strong scent repelling insects above ground and Nasturtiums repel nematodes in the soil. Both are edible too (petals on Marigolds, leaves + petals on Nasturtiums)! Nasturtiums are susceptible to frost so they’ll require protection after planting.
A good reminder too came from Sarah S., that some spring and summer plants are easily propagated now vs. starting over from seed. You can root the tips of tomatoes and 4” pieces of tropical milkweed (cut above a node) in a jar of water.
Cut all leaves below water level and keep water fresh. Plant in potting soil in a 4” pot when roots are visible.
Others, like bunching onions, can be divided now.
Looking towards our Spring Video series, we’ll be growing a 5’x5’ Square Foot Garden with an olla in the center. We’ll reveal a plan at our February AOG meeting. You’re invited to grow along with us or amend the plan to suit your salad bowl and growing experience. You may want to source a 2 gallon Dripping Springs Olla early. While there’s loads of information online at squarefootgardening.org you might like to have these books at hand to learn more about this growing method. It features high density planting to shade out weeds and increase productivity in small spaces.
Your neighbors, coworkers and parents might remember the PBS show or have tips to share. Invite them to seed/plant share and join us. We’re hoping this will be a fun way to bring our online community together as we grow a similar set of veggies, herbs and flowers this spring! We look forward to planting our display garden at Zilker Botanical Gardens in the Pioneer Village on future workdays. Keep an eye out for our posts and progress updates. Happy planning and seed starting!
With kind regards, Madelynn