Planting cucumber seeds was one one of the first tasks given to me during my starting week at Delaney Community Farm outside of Denver, CO. They were the first seeds I'd ever planted, and I was to drop them in several 30 foot rows that I had just carved with a hoe.
I was horrified at the idea of releasing these tiny, baby seeds into that dry, crumbly soil. It seemed simply impossible that they would know how to grow and survive in such seemingly harsh conditions.
Sure enough, they sprouted, grew, and matured into fabulous slicers and picklers. And with them grew my fascination with the knowledge that I can really grow something big from a tiny seed.
I highly encourage you to plant a few of your vegetables from seed this spring. You can expose yourself to far more variety than what's available that week at the nursery. It can be cheaper than buying seedlings, though potting soil can add up as an expense. It's also a fascinating science project and an exercise in patience and care.
This is a great time to plant one final succession of cool season crops in the Northern CA area (though this weather is making me want to start the tomatoes and melons!). Don't have a greenhouse? Try a windowsill.
Tips for starting veggie seeds:
- Seeds are dormant until placed in an environment that encourages germination - essentially a dark, moist place. I either start mine in recycled cell packs in the green house or sow them directly into the ground, depending on the time of year and preference of the crop. Read the back of the seed packet to find out specific instructions.
- The general rule of thumb is to plant double the amount of seeds that you think you need. For example, sow 8 tomato seeds if you want 4 tomato plants. This is useful in case any of the seeds fail to germinate. You can always gingerly separate the starts, pot them up, and pass along to your neighbor.
- Another general rule is to sow seeds twice as deep as the seed is wide. This means barely under the surface for tiny seeds like lettuce or carrots, and about 1/4 inch for crops like squash. You don't need to pat down the soil. It really is OK just to sprinkle soil on top of the seed.
- Make sure you use potting mix or potting soil instead of planting soil or compost. Potting mixes/soils contain all the necessary ingredients (perlite, vermiculite, peat moss, etc.) to stay light and fluffy, and drain properly.
- Water gently and thoroughly. Be extremely diligent about keeping the seeds moist through germination. I like to cover them with floating row cover to help contain moisture.