Notes from Windward: #71


Starting Seeds

the promise of a new season

February 24, 2011


     We have been enjoying several weeks of spring weather, a welcomed break from the snow pack, but now we are once again under several inches of snow with little hope of temperatures reaching above freezing soon.

a late February snow

     But, regardless of the weather outside, it is still the time to start seeding for the spring and summer garden, and so the kitchen is filling up with trays of soon to be plants. Very cold hardy varieties of kale, chard and collards, selected from plants that have survived winter temperatures in the single digits have been seeded to be planted out in late march. Other brassicas, including broccoli and cabbage, as well as lettuces have also been started indoors and will be ready to go outside in 4-6 weeks. Peppers, the notorious slow germinaters (usually just about when you are ready to give up on them and think that the seed was bad, they finally poke their cotyledons up into the daylight), were started at the end of the second week of February, followed by eggplant, and I will start tomatoes either today or tomorrow.

germinated broccoli and cabbage

     Onions, leeks, cilantro and parsley have also been seeded. Our efforts over the past few years at establishing more perennial herbs such as sage and thyme have been successful, so while this would be the time to start these slow growers, we no longer need to do so. We are looking to expand our supply of another perennial herb, oregano, however, so I have seeded some of the trays with these tiny, tiny seeds.

     Every year the weather patterns are a little different and so its always a bit of a gamble as to when exactly it is best to start one vegetable or another. But overall, patterns exist and while the snow falls now, likely by late March when many of these plants are large enough to be transplanted the deep freezes into the single digits will be past for the year. Last year at this time, we had been having warm, spring-like weather for weeks and I was already direct seeding outside spinach, arugula and peas. Those crops will have to wait a little longer this year.

kale seedlings

     On a personal note, it is interesting to observe how I respond each year to this time of planning the garden and starting the seeds. Each year, the process is a little less hectic and anxiety provoking for me, as I settle more into the weather patterns up here on the plateau and gain a more detailed understanding of what our land grows well and how much we eat. This means I can base my decisions of what, how much and when to plant on revisions and modifications of what I did last year as opposed to well informed guesses. All this translates into a much calmer Lindsay on a day to day basis, which is nice for me and probably those around me. But also, I can then devote more energy to improving, expanding and honing our food production processes, as opposed to just making sure we have a garden producing fresh food that everyone can enjoy and have enough to stock up for the winter. I have energy and interest in experimenting with new crops or varieties, and strengthening the security of our food supply by adding important, but sometimes time intensive steps, of saving seed. This process of growing better acquainted with this land is a welcomed one and it is rewarding to remember that if I pay attention and put in my time, I will learn, and bit by bit pieces of this never ending journey towards sustainability will become easier.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 71