Photo by Jessica Walliser
To help properly space small seeds, mix them into a cornstarch-water gel and squirt them into the soil from a plastic bag.
Now that the weather is finally warming up a bit, I plan to head to the garden this weekend to plant some seeds of several cool-weather crops. I usually have my first planting of lettuce, beets, peas and carrots into the garden by the end of March, but this spring has been so cold, I haven’t had the chance.
I received a copy of a lovely new seed-starting guide written by Barbara Ellis, one of my favorite garden writers. The little book is called Starting Seeds: How to Grow Healthy, Productive Vegetables, Herbs and Flowers from Seed (Story Publishing, 2013), and in it, she describes a new-to-me technique for planting tiny seeds. It’s targeted at aiding the gardener in attaining proper spacing. I’m excited to try it out this year and see if I can actually get my carrots and lettuce planted at the proper spacing, eliminating the need to thin seedlings and waste seed.
Ellis says to pre-germinate small-seeded, early-season crops, such as lettuce, radish, and carrots, by placing the seeds inside of a folded and dampened paper towel. Then, place the towel inside a sealed plastic baggie and label it. Put the bag in a warm spot (56 to 70 degrees F), and check it every few days for germination. Then when the seeds have germinated, the fun begins!
Boil 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 1 cup of water. Once the mixture cools, put it into a small plastic bag, transfer the sprouted seeds to the gel, and gently stir them in so they are distributed evenly throughout the gel. Close the bag with a twist tie. Dig your planting furrow as usual, and then cut off a corner of the bag so that you can squeeze the seed out one at a time, gel and all. Ingenious!
Not only does Ellis’ book offer this gem of gardening advice, it guides a gardener through all the ins and outs of seeds starting, both indoors and out.