URBAN GARDENER: From seed to food

Starting your seedlings from scratch is not as tough as it sounds.

Starting your seedlings from scratch is not as tough as it sounds.

If you have packages of seeds left over from last year’s planting, tuck them in the fridge for a few days.

That helps the seeds to complete the dormant cycle.

When seed paks have sat in storage for a year or two there is no sure way to tell whether they are going to germinate.

Now, here’s a trick I learned from local gardener guru, Lance Klaasen.

Sprinkle seeds on damp cloths or paper towels.

Cover with moist cloths and leave in a warm place such as the kitchen counter top.

Make sure the fabric stays damp and in a few days you should have tiny sprouts peeking out from their shells.

If there is no sign of life you might as well discard the old seeds and start fresh with new paks.

However, if you are fortunate you’ll have lots of sprouts.

The next step is to transfer the seedlings into prepared trays or cartons filled with potting soil and vermiculite.

I use tweezers to very gently transfer the sprouts.

To avoid buying containers, use milk cartons split in half, length-wise.

They make very effective starter trays.

Now, place trays on a sunny window sill for the next month while you’re waiting for the outside soil to warm.

If your windows don’t have plenty of daytime light you may need a grow lamp.

Tips for first time or novice gardeners who may have limited space on their patios or pocket yards: get an early start with planting leaf lettuce, arugula, chard, mizuma and spinach as they don’t require full sun and definitely don’t like hot weather.

If you are limited to a couple of large pots on the deck, you can have salad type veggies growing all season long – they thrive in partially shaded areas.

Always have more starter plants on the go so that as you harvest your crunchy crop you are ready to fill the empty spaces with more veggies from the grow trays.

The Garden Diva, Chelsea Holley, who started the community garden on Westgate Road, would like to hear from residents with unused backyards. She has a list of people with no yard space who would love to garden in someone else’s unused spare ground. Call Holley at (250) 926-0279.