Sowing seeds is supremely satisfying

Heritage seed program talk on Garden Club agenda

  • Mar. 16, 2011 6:00 p.m.

Like many other activities and events, the February 23 meeting of the Sooke Garden Club was cancelled because of the weather. Fortunately, Christene Rafuse’s presentation, ‘Heritage Seeds and Why They Are Important,’ has been rescheduled for this month. Christene will be talking about the history of seed production in the Victoria area, current producers of open-pollinated seed, and Seeds of Diversity, a heritage seed program initiated in 1984 in response to the dramatic loss of food plant varieties since the 1950s. She will also share her own experiences with growing heritage seeds in Sooke.

And speaking of seeds … there’s something very satisfying about watching them sprout and grow into something that will eventually feed the body and/or senses. Many gardeners shy away from starting flowers and vegetables from seed, but for me it’s one of late winter’s true pleasures. Currently, my three-tier plant stand is jam-packed with seedlings for this year’s gardening effort: tomatoes, peppers, onions, zinnias, snapdragons, and lettuces. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be seeding additional vegetable and flower seeds, some inside and others directly into outdoor beds.

From my perspective, success with indoor seeding depends on several simple but important factors: viable seed, clean containers, a good potting medium, adequate light, and bottom heat (for heat-loving plants such as tomatoes and peppers). The grow lights on my plant stand can be raised or lowered as necessary. Keeping the light only a few inches above the seedlings prevents them from becoming leggy. Heat mats under the seeded flats provide just the right amount of warmth for germination and early growing.

This said, every year presents the typical gardening addict with a new opportunity to do something better or different, from seed selection to seeding date to seeding medium to planting out … and everything in between. My ‘experiment’ this year involves seeding initially into ‘soil blocks’ rather than containers. Soil blocks are made by plunging a metal soil block maker into a wet mix of peat moss and compost, ejecting the blocks, slightly separated, onto trays, and placing the seed into the indentation left on the top of each block. With careful watering, the blocks retain their shape nicely and are easy to move when it’s time to pot up or plant out the seedlings. Proponents note that root development is enhanced through air pruning (exposure of the roots to air on four sides of the block) and root disturbance is minimized when the blocks are planted.

Results so far are promising. Germination has been faster than usual (all 36 tomato seeds were up within four days!), and potting up has been a breeze. But because the blocks will fall apart if water is poured on them, figuring out a good watering system has been the main challenge. I’m using some ‘super absorbent’ fabric as capillary matting right now, but the search is on for something better for next year. Suggestions are welcome.

Please join us on Wednesday, March 23, 7:30 p.m., in the Sooke Legion Hall.

Membership is $15 for the year and can be purchased at the door.

There will also be a parlour show.

For more information,  email : sookegardenclub@yahoo.ca or phone 250-642-0058.

Loretta Fritz

Sooke Garden Club

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