Here at the farm, much of the ground is covered in winter snow and ice, but inside my greenhouses, there's a lot of spring-like activity - my gardeners, Ryan and Wilmer, are busy cleaning, organizing tools, transplanting and starting our vegetables and flowers from seed.
We start sowing seeds indoors soon after the New Year. Ryan sows thousands of seeds - all those wonderful seeds I enjoy purchasing during my travels, and seeds I've saved from years past. This year, I have lots and lots of seeds that I brought back from Paris. Starting from seed isn’t difficult. They can be planted closely together in seed starting trays, and then pulled apart easily when they're ready to move outdoors.
Enjoy these photos. And check my Instagram page @marthastewart48 to see what's blooming in my greenhouse now - so beautiful.
While I was in Paris with my family, we stopped at Vilmorin, a French seed producer. Alexis and Jude chose all the seeds for this year’s growing season at my farm. Jude loved selecting the vegetables and melons. http://www.vilmorin.com/homePage.aspx
“Beg, borrow or buy your seeds”. Whenever I travel, it is one of the first things I like to purchase. And when I return home, I bring the collection of seeds straight to the greenhouse, so Ryan can start planting them indoors – new seeds are always so exciting.
Vilmorin offers hundreds of varieties of organic vegetable, herb, flower, and fruit seeds – most are their own, but they also sell other well-loved brands.
The first thing Ryan does is organize the seeds to determine which ones he needs to plant now, and which ones need to wait a few more weeks.
We keep seed packets in plastic envelopes, and plastic bins – all labeled and filed for easy reference. Mason jars with tight-fitting lids, or glass canisters with gasketed lids also work. Humidity and warmth shorten a seed’s shelf life, so we store all of the organized seed packets in a greenhouse refrigerator.
When buying or ordering seeds, be sure to read the hardiness of a plant. And, know your hardiness zone, so you can select the right seeds for your area. Here in Bedford, we are zone-5. It is easy to look it up online.
Ryan puts away all the seeds he isn’t planting right away.
Then he chooses all the necessary seed starting trays. These can be saved from year to year, so don’t throw them away after the season.
Seed starting trays are available in all sizes and formations. Select the right kind of tray based on the size of the seeds. The containers should be at least two-inches deep and have adequate drainage holes.
It’s best to use a pre-made seed starting mix that contains the proper amounts of vermiculite, perlite and peat moss. Seed starting mixes are available at garden supply stores.
When possible, prepare several trays in an assembly-line fashion, and then drop all the seeds. Doing this saves time and simplifies the process.
These trays are all set to be planted.
Ryan writes the seed variety on markers, so he’s ready to place it in the trays after planting the seeds. It’s also helpful to put the date of planting on the back.
Here are a few of the markers with their corresponding seeds.
This tray is designed with individual cells for each seedling.
Alcea rosea, commonly known as hollyhock, is an ornamental plant in the Malvaceae family. The flowers come in a range of colors from white to dark red, including pink, yellow and orange.
These seeds are a good size for planting in these trays with individual cells.
Using your finger, a dibber, or a closed thick marker pen, make a hole in each cell, and drop seeds into each one.
It’s always a good idea to keep a record of when seeds are sown, when they germinate, and when they are transplanted. These observations will help organize a schedule for the following year.
Cover the seeds by leveling the soil and filling the holes back in with the medium.
Here is a tray without cells – this is great for smaller seeds.
When starting seeds, fill the seed starting tray with mix and pat it down lightly into each compartment. The mix should be level with the top of the tray.
This seed starting board is helpful for making rows right into a seed tray of mix – it can be made or bought online. It has little moulding strips on a piece of plywood. If you decide to make one yourself, be sure it is the same size of the interior of your planting tray.
Just press the board down into the tray.
The furrows are very defined, and indicate exactly where the seeds should be dropped.
Here is a closer look at each of the furrows.
Lavandula, or lavender, is a genus of 39 known species of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. It is native to the Old World and is found from Cape Verde and the Canary Islands, Europe across to northern and eastern Africa, the Mediterranean, southwest Asia to southeast India.
The seeds are very small, so be very careful when pouring them out of the packet.
Just drop seeds along each furrow – evenly about a quarter-inch apart.
Seeds are usually started about two months before the last frost – we will be planting seeds well into March.
Once all the seeds are planted, back fill the furrows and cover the seeds with soil.
Cover the seeded tray with a plastic dome. This helps keep the seeds moist before they germinate. The tops can be removed once green appears. We keep trays on a special heating mat for starting seeds.
I also like to use the Urban Cultivator growing system – it has water, temperature and humidity all set-up in this refrigerator like unit. I will show you this system in more detail during another blog. http://www.urbancultivator.net
And then it’s back to seeding – there are a lots and lots of seeds to plant.