When is key to successful seeds

I used to follow the vegetable planting guide in the West Coast Seeds Catalogue, but here in Mesachie Lake I found 36 more frost free days.

Seed table.

Seed table.

Timing is everything. I used to follow the vegetable planting guide in the West Coast Seeds Catalogue, but when I recorded daily temperatures here in Mesachie Lake I found we get 36 more frost free days. I suspect Youbou and Lake Cowichan get even more. Our last frost in 2015 was March 5, three weeks earlier than the guide date, so we can get a big jump on the season. Each microclimate is different though, so you should take your own temperatures as it may already be time to grow.

I like to sow several crops in flats, kept on a set of shelves over which I suspend fluorescent lights I can move up or down to accommodate growing seedlings. Since the plants require a period of darkness, the lights are plugged into a timer set to go on for 14 hours a day. I cover the whole works with plastic to keep it warm and moist. To keep out crawling insects I staple a strip of sandpaper to each leg, and to keep out flying insects I lay a piece of remay over each flat of seeds and tuck in the sides.

My seed table is in the unheated greenhouse but seedlings can be grown anywhere: inside a south-facing window or on a shelf under any kind of light, just keep the seedlings two inches away from the light as they grow. In the house you won’t need to cover them with plastic as it will be warm enough.

I’ve tried all kinds of pots, newspaper circles and soil block-makers to start the seeds off in but the easiest I’ve found are the plastic flats that sections of plastic cells conveniently nestle in. Whatever kinds of pots you use, fill them with damp potting mix, sprinkle on the seeds, pat them down to restore capillarity then lightly sprinkle more potting mix over the surface. This light topping won’t inhibit tender seedlings and will keep the surface a bit drier and help prevent damping-off disease. It’s best to water from the bottom so as not to disturb the seeds. Once they’re up, watering from above is fine too.

Most potting mixes I’ve tried work well, including commercial bags, but my favourite is Steve Solomon’s mix and if you’d like the recipe send your email to me at mary_lowther@yahoo.ca. This year I’ll use his revised fertilizer mix to make it with and I can send that recipe to you, too.