So if you are into the super technical science part of seeds and the like, this may not be the blog post for you. Just go to this Wikipedia page, and soak it up. If you are into seeds for their almost supernatural ability to provide you and most things on the planet a ready food supply, then this might be the place for you.
The Amazingness of Seeds
Ok, I know that might not be a word, but their is a quality about seeds that defies language. Garden geeks like me cannot get over the fact that this hard little speck that resembles sand or rock can somehow determine when it is in a reasonable enough environment to “wake up” and produce a living organism much, much, much bigger than itself. If you have ever seen a Yellow Pear Tomato plant loaded down with ripe golden fruit, it is hard to believe that the seeds are super hard to handle if you have fingers like mine. Tomato seeds are flat little jokers that are almost impossible for me to drop one or two into a starting tray at a time… I digress. They are just amazing, but they are not magic.
Everyone who has been to public school should know that plants need something to grow in (I favor dirt), some water, some light, and some nutrients. Seeds, however, do not need most of those to get started. In that tiny packet of dormant life, seeds carry a food supply to get them off an going until they can establish roots and leaves. They usually only require moisture and a warm environment (sometimes actual light). After they drop their first little semblance of a root, they will emerge and spread their pre-embryonic solar panels/food packets called cotyledons. These are not leaves, but allow the seedling to start converting light energy into food. Then will come true roots and true leaves, and it’s off to the races.
Direct or Transplant?
Why do we start some seed inside and some outside? Why don’t we transplant everything? Why don’t we direct seed everything? Why did we include tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants in the February Box and not squash, corn and beans? Why are you hounding me with all of these questions?
There are some very practical and nonspiritual criteria for deciding which seeds to start inside and which to direct sow. Most of them can be attributed to seed size, strength of seedlings, and specific growing seasons. You will have to decide this based on the length of your growing season and your style, but as for me its simple.
Medium sized uniform seeds like okra, peas, and corn that will function best in my garden seeder get the direct seed treatment. Unless I am trying to be the first at the market (in Zone 8), they get direct seeded.
Small difficult seeds get started in trays and uniformly transplanted in my garden. This includes Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and most brassicas. Carrots, I buy pelleted and direct seed via garden seeder.
Next comes the big or weird shape seeds. Think pumpkin, squash, and huge beans. These guys are too easy to hand seed for me. They usually need copious amounts of growing space (like feet), so I just drop them out and hill them up. Another reason for the bigger seeds to be direct seeded is that the seedlings usually emerge pretty stout. Think of the size of a newly broken through squash compared to a tomato. That squash can handle most conditions (except cut worms and vine borers).
Other reasons to consider are the “transplant-ability” of a certain plant. Carrots, southern pea, most beans, and most root crops will not transplant well due to various reasons like transplant shock, fragile roots, disease susceptibility, etc.
So those are some thoughts for this week. I know some of you will disagree or do things a little differently. That’s cool. Let us know in the comments or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to hear from you, but until then, keep working, keep learning, and keep in touch.
-Sam with The Homestead Box