Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Starting Seeds at Storey

Yesterday afternoon, a group of Storey employees from both floors and all corners of our office sat down at a table to start planning what has become, over three or four years, an annual event: the ordering and starting of seeds for our home gardens.

The Fedco seed catalog and The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Northeast were on our table yesterday.

Over the years this group has been ordering seeds together, its purpose has grown organically (pun intended!) from what editor Carleen Madigan described as something akin to a kindergarten class project—a chaotic attempt at doing every step in the process together—to a comfortable and supportive collaboration, where participants can work alongside fellow colleagues or just take advantage of office space with bright sun, warm rooms, and the guarantee of space without children, pets, or other home distractions, to grow a little more independently.

Yesterday, seasoned hands and newcomers gathered round, with well-browsed copies of the Fedco seed catalog and a new book from Timber Press which covers (as one person put it) “the idiot-proof and disease-resistant varieties—perfect for the beginner.” Caroline Burch even brought her fully developed garden plan, reminding the beginning gardeners that garden plans need not be pretty or perfect—no one but the gardener needs to be able to understand or interpret them.

A peek at Caroline’s garden plan

This year, the group committed to growing all organic, from seed to soil. The seed order will be placed on Friday, and we’ll be following the progress of these dedicated growers throughout the season, from seed ordering to harvest. Hopefully, there will be something to inspire and excite aspiring and veteran gardeners alike!

Want some tips? Here’s garden wisdom fresh from yesterday’s meeting:

  1. Keep a journal: Pick up a notebook or a binder where you can keep track of what you planted, where, when, and make any growing notes as the season goes on—an invaluable resource when you sit down to plan next year’s garden, too.
  2. Save money: Revisit your stash. If you’re growing some favorites again this year, go back through any leftover seeds from last year’s order and use up what you can before ordering a new supply.
  3. Shop for a shop light: In the early days of the growing season, natural light may not be strong enough to get your seeds sprouting and sprouts growing. It’s worth it to invest in a regular shop light with cool-spectrum fluorescent bulbs that you can hang over your trays and raise and lower as needed.
  4. Heat from below: Tomatoes and peppers—plants that like it warm—will germinate better with bottom heat. Try a seedling heat mat underneath your warm plant seedling flat or place your tray on a slightly warm surface (the top of your refrigerator can be a good spot).
  5. Use pencil and reuse your plant markers: Pencil on white plastic plant markers won’t smudge or fade, so it lasts longer than marker when you need it to, and can be erased when you’re done.
  6. Consider cover: Caroline said that row covers over her kale, once the plants were out in the garden, made all the difference last year in protecting the leaves from cabbage moths. Consider purchasing from your local nursery row covers that allow light to filter through but keep the pests from getting the goods.

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