Spring Seed Sowing 101
Sowing your first seeds
The following information is a general guide, for more specific information always refer to the seed packet for specific instructions.
Types of seed
There are various types of seed available for purchase, you can buy natural seed, (that is seed straight from the plant and packaged up by the seed companies), and you can buy seed with easy planting applicators and packaging and they all produce good plants with a varying amount of planting effort.
When you are buying seeds you may see one called an F1 ‘Hybrid’. This is generally a more expensive seed produced by ‘crossing’ selected parent plants to produce a more productive cropping plant. F1 means ‘first filial generation’, there is also a second filial generation or F2. F2 seeds are the result of crossing two F1 varieties.
If you want to grow good quality, heavy producing crops then buy an F1 variety.
Some plants need to be sown outdoors as they will not transplant too well, Carrots are a good example of this. Check the seed packet for instructions, and look for the temperature indicator. For example 15-20°C
Before you sow to make sure the soil has had stones, and lumps of soil removed and have been raked into a fine tilth. Prepare a shallow trench using pegs and string to create a straight line, and use the corner of a how-to excavate a trench to the required depth to receive the seeds. Sprinkle the seeds in at the correct distance and lightly cover with soil. If you have to walk on the soil to plant the seeds place a plank or board on the ground and step on this and it will prevent the soil from being compacted.
As the seedlings grow they will inevitably become too crowded, as you will have planted more than enough seeds to cover the losses due to pests and diseases. As they grow select weaker looking specimens for removal so as to leave the remaining plants at the correct distance to reach maturity. You can thin the plants almost every couple of days during the growing season rather than doing it all at once. Once removed the thinned plants should be disposed of so as not to attract pests. In the case of Lettuce and Onions, you can replant the thinning’s into a new location.
In more northerly regions you may wish to plant seeds into Seed Trays or modules and then grow them indoors until the ground warms to the correct planting temperature.
When planting seeds into a module place 2-3 seeds in each module to make sure one grows. Thin the weakest out until you have one strong plant left.
Before you plant indoor grown plants outside it is necessary to acclimatize them to the lower temperatures of the outdoors. Place them into a cold frame for a week or two before planting out.
5 Steps to Sowing Success
STEP 1: Know your average last frost date
This date, which is specific to your location, is the average date of the last spring frost as observed over several years. Call your county extension service (it’s in the blue pages of your phone book) for the date.
STEP 2: Determine your soil’s temperature
A soil thermometer is the most accurate way to take your soil’s temperature. Simply stick the probe into the soil and wait to see consistent readings for a few days. Plant when the soil reaches your crop’s ideal temperature. A soil thermometer with an 8-inch probe costs about $9.
STEP 3: Test soil moisture
Dig down 4 to 6 inches, grab a handful of soil, and squeeze it into a ball. Then try to crumble it between your fingers. If it won’t crumble and feels a bit like brownie batter, it’s too wet. Wait a few days and try again. If it crumbles easily, it’s ready for planting. If the soil slides through your fingers, it’s too dry. Soak the soil and let it drain. Plant once it passes the squeeze test.
STEP 4: Know your crops
Figure out what soil temperatures your favorite vegetables prefer and what weather they can tolerate. Nancy Bubel’s guide, The New Seed-Starters Handbook, lists the ideal temperature ranges of most vegetables. Use your last-frost date to establish planting dates. Just be sure that the soil is warm and dry enough before planting.
STEP 5 Add organic matter
Regularly incorporating organic matter (compost, cover crops, etc.) into soil improves its tilth—physical condition and workability. A soil with good tilth drains well and is easy to cultivate, conducive to seed germination and root growth, and resistant to crusting.
Our Choose Spring Seed Sowing
With this beautiful season in full swing engulfing us in color and fragrance, seed sowing is so much a spring activity with such satisfying rewards that everyone should be experiencing!
I have chosen Our top 10 spring seeds that I literally cannot live without, and I spend a lot of time preparing both beds and seed trays to accommodate these health building little seeds. First always on my list the minute, the weather warms up is:
ANNUAL BASIL – Ocimum basilicum
Sow in trays that are shaded and moist and friable, filled with well-draining soil to which a little fine compost has been mixed. The secret is to always keep the soil well-watered and never to let it dry out. I pick out the little seedlings when they are big enough to handle and plant them in bags filled with compost to grow in partial shade, gradually strengthening them by bringing them out daily into full sun for longer and longer periods. Then plant in full sun spaced 50 cm apart. Basil is nature’s excellent detoxifier, it de-stresses and is good for headaches, coughs, tonsillitis, hypertension, aches and pains, and stiffness and makes an ordinary salad taste divine. Serve chopped on pizzas, pasta, and stir-fries.
CELERY – Apium graveolens
This easy annual celery is grown like basil and is a perfect summer salad ingredient. It is also an excellent detoxifier, antispasmodic and antiseptic, and cleanses kidneys and bladder and improves circulation. Just a cupful of chopped stems and leaves in the daily salad will ease arthritic pains, gout, and stiffness and reduces acidity in the body, and it’s so pretty in the garden. I plant it next to tomatoes, basil beans, and spring onions, and its flavor is so delicious I use it in everything, specially stirfries and summer soups.
CORIANDER – Coriandrum sativum
Sow this pretty annual now, like basil, and eat the young fresh leaves in salads and sprinkled over grills and braais. It’s so quick and easy and mature plants have masses of dainty edible flowers, and the ripening seeds both green and brown are the most marvelous digestive, added to sauces and marinades. Just chew a few seeds to ease heartburn, tension, anxiety, and to lift your mood and to sweeten the breath, and the flowers can be made into a lotion to clear acne by covering in boiling water and allowing to cool, then strain and use as splash or spritz spray.
ROCKET – Eruca sativa
Sow in the same way as basil and sow it lavishly – this is a divine taste experience, pungent, meaty and rich. Use it chopped on newly baked bread spread with mayonnaise and thinly sliced radishes and become a Roman for a moment! The Romans loved the rocket! Excellent for colds, coughs and skin ailments. Rocket is an experience and it leaves soothe insect bites and rashes, and it’s prolific!
FENNEL – Foeniculum vulgare
No spring is complete without fennel! This wonderful detoxifying herb is tough, resilient and nature’s most wonderful detoxifier, cleansing, refreshing and delicious. Leaves and seeds and flowers can be added to everything and fennel savory biscuits are a treat for Christmas. So get going! Sow as you would for basil and plant out 1 meter apart. This is the slimmer’s herb, so I use fennel tea often and add it to sauces and salads. It eases heartburn, constipation, colic, and respiratory ailments, and as a lotion refines and heals acne, skin ailments and oiliness. It’s a magical herb!
PARSLEY – Petroselinum crispum
No garden can be complete without parsley at this time of the year. I sow both the most curled parsley and the flat-leaf Italian parsley and I add them to every savory dish. Parsley is nature’s wonder plant – the world’s favorite herb that treats gout, rheumatism, fevers, flatulence, and nausea, it helps to control blood pressure, ease prostate problems, flushes the kidneys and bladder and builds the whole body to peak health – it even gives a sparkle to tired eyes and a glow to the skin. Sow lots the way you sow basil.
GREEN PEPPERS – Capsicum species
Now is the time to grow these marvelous vegetables – in trays just like the way you sow basil. A prolific summer annual, I use sliced green peppers sweet and flavor-filled in salads and stir-fries, meat dishes and pasta and I can’t get enough! Packed with vitamins and minerals, green peppers literally act as a tonic, and I have a row of them spaced 50 cm apart and I let some ripen to red for color in summer salads. Prolific, rewarding and bursting with health-giving properties, plant green peppers amongst your flowers – you’ll be enchanted.
RADISH – Raphanus sativus
One of the quickest and easiest summer crops to grow, and bursting with goodness. Make a compost-filled furrow at the edge of a bed in full sun and sprinkle the seed directly into it. Keep covered and moist and literally, within 3 or 4 days the first little seedlings will appear. Children love to sow radishes! The leaves can be quickly steamed attached to the bright little bulb and served with lemon juice, butter, and a little salt, as a tasty vegetable, and the crisp little radishes make a salad spectacular! Full of vitamins and minerals and so easy to grow, radishes act as a tonic giving energy and vitality and clear skins and brighten eyes!
GREEN MEALIES – Zea mays
Do yourself a favor, sow a row of green mealies – they are easy to grow! Dig a deep furrow, filled with compost, in full sun and press in a row of mealie seeds spaced 30-50 cm apart. Keep well watered. Never has a mealie tasted so divine as when it is picked and immediately boiled up and served with butter and salt! And it’s fascinating to watch the growing! You’ll become addicted.
CHERRY TOMATOES – Lycopersicon esculentum
Versatile, delicious and so easy to grow, I chose cherry tomatoes as they are so prolific and so beautiful in salads and the perfect health tonic everyone needs! Sow the seeds in trays like basil and then once they are planted in full sun support them on a frame or low fence. Let them ripen on the vine and use the leaves to rub onto kitchen counters and window sills to chase the flies. Make an unforgettable party salad with your own cherry tomatoes with chopped celery, parsley, basil, rocket, thinly sliced radish, and feta cheese, with a little olive oil and lemon juice and eat like a king!
Preparing Your Garden for Spring
In the fall you put your garden to bed. By spring it’s got quite a case of bed head going on. Here are a few tips for tidying it up:
• Cut back dried foliage of ornamental grasses. Trim winter damage from evergreen grasses like Carex and Blue Fescue. Liriope, while not a true grass, is best trimmed now before new growth begins. Spring is also a good time to rejuvenate grasses by dividing them, especially when the clump has died out in the center.
• Cut back spent perennials that you left standing over the winter for wildlife cover and food. (That was good of you!)
• Prune tree and shrub branches damaged by wind and snow. Late summer-flowering shrubs, such as Caryopteris and Rose of Sharon can be pruned for shape now, but wait to prune spring bloomers, like Bridalwreath Spirea and Forsythia, until after they’re done blooming.
• Neaten up your roses by removing any winter protection you gave them last fall. Rake off soil or mulch at the base that you used to protect the graft union. Cut back winter-damaged canes to 1 inch below the blackened area. Most roses are pruned in the spring; however, different rose types have different pruning requirements. Research your particular rose before doing any serious pruning.
• Weeds, alas, wake up in early spring, too. The best time to remove them is after a rain when the ground is soft.
• Feed spring-blooming bulbs with a bulb fertilizer. But don’t tie or cut the foliage until leaves turn yellow–they reinvigorate the bulbs through photosynthesis.
• Sharpen the bed lines at your lawn’s edge with a straight-edge garden spade. It’ll help keep the turfgrass out and give your garden a polished look.
There! Your perfectly coiffed spring garden!
Table of Contents
- 1 Spring Seed Sowing 101
- 1.1 Sowing your first seeds
- 1.2 Types of seed
- 1.3 5 Steps to Sowing Success
- 1.4 Our Choose Spring Seed Sowing
- 1.4.1 ANNUAL BASIL – Ocimum basilicum
- 1.4.2 CELERY – Apium graveolens
- 1.4.3 CORIANDER – Coriandrum sativum
- 1.4.4 ROCKET – Eruca sativa
- 1.4.5 FENNEL – Foeniculum vulgare
- 1.4.6 PARSLEY – Petroselinum crispum
- 1.4.7 GREEN PEPPERS – Capsicum species
- 1.4.8 RADISH – Raphanus sativus
- 1.4.9 GREEN MEALIES – Zea mays
- 1.4.10 CHERRY TOMATOES – Lycopersicon esculentum
- 1.5 Preparing Your Garden for Spring