Photo: Radish seedlings ready for transplanting
We hosted a local gardening class at the farm this past weekend that discussed seedling health, transplanting tips and the use of hotbeds to extend the growing season. Something I learned that I found really fascinating and helpful was this:
Seeds hold enough nutrients within themselves to fully support their own growth until they’ve formed their first true leaf.
Amazing! I’d had no idea of the extent of nutrients living within a seed and understanding this means that I now know when to transplant seedlings into nutrient rich soil (or add natural fertilizers to the sterile potting soil they’re already in). SOOO helpful since up until now the only indicators I was relying on to inform my transplanting decisions were seedling size or the timing listed on planting charts.
If this information is new to you too, you may also wonder what the first TRUE leaf of a seedling is – since that’s the signifier that tells us when seedlings have used up their inner nutrients and need external help to continue growing. Contrary to how it may sound, the first true leaf isn’t the first leaf that appears when your seedling sprouts. That (or those, as there are often two) are called cotyledons. Cotyledons are part of the seed embryo and they are the first leaves to appear on a seedling. The first TRUE leaf however, is the first leaf that grows after the cotyledons have formed.
Take a look at the photo above. It’s a shot of some radish seedlings that we transplanted in class. Notice how the seedlings each have two round leaves. These leaves are the cotyledons of the radish seeds. Since there are two in this case, they are referred to as ‘dicots’ (plants with a single cotyledon are ‘monocots’). These first leaves on seedlings often look the same on many different plant varieties, but the first TRUE leaf holds the visual characteristics appropriate to its own specific plant variety (see photo of some first true radish leaves growing up between the cotyledons below).
Now that I know this, I feel like I’m able to observe my little seedlings with new eyes and give them the attention and care that they need. So thankful for spring and all the amazing things we get to learn as we nurture and watch our seedlings grow into beautiful life-giving plants.
I’m impatient. I want to plant everything now and be able to harvest everything…yesterday. When oh when will I be running outside to eat my own fresh veggies again? Winter around here feels like it lasts FOREVER sometimes. I know this week marks the official start to spring, but seriously, that hail storm this morning did not feel spring-ish to me…
So, since I only have a couple food growing seasons under my belt and because I need something to dampen my impatience, I’ve been spending a lot of time researching information on when exactly I should plant things and, consequently, when I’ll be able to eat the grown products (obviously). For my research, I’m relying heavily on the advice printed on seed packets and on helpful websites. In the process, I’ve become very thankful for the planting charts that are put out by West Coast Seeds, one of our favorite seed suppliers.
I recently recommended the charts to a friend who’s starting her first veggie garden this year so I thought I’d post them up on this blog for others to use as resources as well. The charts are available in the West Coast Seeds Catalogue, but you can also find them electronically on their website. Find the Vegetable Planting Chart here and the Herbs and Flower Chart here (shown in image above).
The charts have been designed with BC West Coast gardeners in mind. If you live in other regions of the world, you’ll want to find a guide that’s more suitable to your climate and agricultural zone. However, for those of us living in this part of the world, according to these charts, we should be getting outside right now and direct seeding argula, broad beans, carrots, kale, parsnips, peas, and more in our garden beds. Hail be damned (although sunshine really would be appreciated), there are seeds to plant! Happy planting!
This Saturday, March 25th, is the newest workshop in the Growing Food course series that Gail Szostek is teaching in Maple Ridge. The Growing Food course is a 12 month workshop series that teaches hands-on gardening skills every step of the way through all four seasons.
This month’s workshop will focus on growing and transplanting seedlings with the hands-on part of the session taking place on our farm! FUN!
The indoor part of the workshop will be held at the CEED Centre (11739, 223rd Street in Maple Ridge), beginning at 12pm. After that, the group will head over to our property to learn how to build a hotbed – a great garden structure that helps seedlings get established even when spring weather isn’t. The class will officially wrap up at 4pm (but we’re happy to give farm tours to anyone who wants to linger for a little while).
The workshop costs $40. RSVP’s aren’t neccessary, but are helpful. If you’d like to RSVP, please email Gail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope to see you at the workshop and at our farm! For more info on the Growing Food course, see the workshop event link on the GETI website.
UPDATE: Here’s some more info from Gail…
The next Growing Food Session is this Saturday, March 24. This time we will be talking about starting your garden plants early. We will be starting at 12:00 noon at the CEED Centre, in the outside shelter area; we will be looking at different types of containers and soils to grow seeds in; we will be learning how to avoid “damping off” and learning how to “prick out”; we will be learning about what to watch for in seedling growth; and you will each get to take a seedling home with you. We will learn which seeds you can plant out in your garden now, and which ones need to wait. About 2:00 we will be travelling over to the Moerman farm to build an old fashioned “hotbed” which is the perfect place to start plants early without added electricity but still ensuring unseasonal warmth for the little seedlings. We will be digging, shovelling, hammering and constructing, so wear your work clothes and bring your gloves and shovels. The weather is supposed to cooperate and give us a nice sunny spring day, so it should be AWESOME!!