Pull Out That Seed Box!

Hold your horses, and put down that seed box! Let’s take a look at what you’ve got! 

April means it’s still cold outside and really cold at night!  It also means rain and (maybe?) the occasional early morning snow flurry. You might see weeds thriving in the yard, but that certainly doesn’t mean that your pumpkins or your corn will grow if you stick them in the ground now. 

Seeds are divided into two basic categories: cool season growers and warm season growers. Cool growing seeds are those like peas, carrots, lettuce, and kale. These are plants that need the cooler temperatures (below 45 degrees at night) to thrive. I like to wait until the soil has lost its heavy mud texture. If you can roll your soil into a ball, you have two problems: too muddy and perhaps too much clay! Heavily clayed soils will be easy to work in the spring, but come summer, that soil will dry up and turn into a terracotta landscape as hard as concrete. Be sure to amend your soil properly. That means lots of organic material and if needed, an inch or two of coarse sand for those heavy clay landscapes. 

If you are not sure whether you have cool growing seeds or warm growing seeds, then be sure to Google it or risk losing them to rot! Some seeds need light to germinate as well. Those include poppies, lettuce, savory, and petunias. Plant these by cultivating the soil and sprinkling the seeds right on top. 

Most vegetable seeds do like to be buried, but only a little bit. Don’t plant too deep. Seeds only need to be under the ground twice the depth as the size of your seed. That means if your seeds are the size of dust, then a light sprinkling of sand followed by a gentle shower from the hose is enough. Check your hose pressure by turning the hose on outside of your garden area. Accidently blasting your planted seeds with the hose is a great way to get unwanted companion plant gardening! I.E., carrots and spinach living together? Talk about making extra work for yourself come harvest time! (Carrot tops do not taste good!) 

You can use old seed packets from that seed box of yours. Just keep in mind certain seeds store very poorly. Parsnips, lettuce, onions, and spinach are good examples of this. I tend to replace these seeds every other year, whereas pumpkin and squash can store longer, on average up to 8 years if kept in a cool dry place. Tomatoes especially can store for years with very little effect. One was recorded having sprouted after a 16 year storage!  In general, if your vegetable seeds don’t come up within 10 – 14 days, they’re probably expired. This doesn’t hold true for all seeds. I had lavender come up nearly six months after planting it! Oh my! Parsnips take their sweet time as well, but nearly everything else in the garden should be up within that two week period. 

Wait until temperatures outside are warm enough at night before you plant those warm growers like pumpkin and tomatoes. They like night temps to be closer to 45 degrees. If you want to get a head start, now’s a good time to plant those long season growers. I start peppers indoors late March and tomatoes mid- April. I plant pumpkins indoors the last week in April. A two week head start for these warm growers can go a long way!  Goodbye winter! Hello spring! Happy growing everyone! 

Erin Nelson

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