By Kristin Lemmerman
Did you ever wonder why some tomatoes at the grocery store are cherry-sized and red or yellow, and some are shaped like plums, and some are huge? It’s because there are thousands of different varieties of tomatoes, every one of them grown from seeds saved by some gardener, somewhere, because that tomato was better than any other … in that particular garden.
There are also lots of varieties of peppers, eggplant, basil, beans, watermelon and every other fruiting plant — but to access the range of possibilities, you have to grow your vegetables from seed. While it requires planning and learning some tricks of the trade, the payoff is that you can grow things that nobody else in your neighborhood may ever have tried before.
What are those “tricks”?
- Start with fresh seeds. Seeds are tiny living things that won’t last forever. You can help them stay viable longer by storing leftovers in a dry, cool place.
- Use good potting mix and clean containers. At Our Giving Garden, our favorite is coconut coir mixed with Happy Frog growing mix. But many commercial seed starting mixes will work; just don’t use soil straight out of your yard, which could contain weed seeds and viruses.
- Use a light hand. There might be 50 sunflower seeds in a packet, but you’re only going to plant three seeds in each pot, eventually thinning to just the strongest one.
- Keep them warm until they sprout. There are so many ways to do this — heat mats work great, but some people simply put their pots on top of the refrigerator until they sprout! If you can cover your pots with a clear plastic lid and put them where sunbeams will hit them during the day, it will probably suffice.
- Give them LIGHT, LIGHT, LIGHT. You’re trying to replace sunlight; your kitchen is definitely not bright enough. At a minimum, your seeds need to be ON the windowsill of the window that gets the most direct light every day. If you see the seedlings leaning toward the window, either try to get them closer or turn them around every few days, so both sides of the plant get light.
You should start tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and most flower seeds now. Don’t start beans, cucumbers, squash, peas, carrots or most greens indoors. Instead, buy those seeds, then follow the package instructions for planting them right in the ground. (Again, remember the rules: use fresh seed, a light hand, and improve our typical clay soil by adding lots of compost.)
If you want to learn more, come by Our Giving Garden on a workday and ask a gardener! Sharing is our thing.
Kristin Lemmerman has an M.Ed from Loyola University Baltimore and has been a Primary Guide at Montessori School at Emory in Decatur, Georgia since 2013. She is also a planting coordinator at Our Giving Garden in Mableton.
|Our Giving Garden March Events|
Call for Artists All Month Long:
Youth Coloring Contest: Pick up a coloring sheet from Studio23 (1308 Roswell St SE, Smyrna) during business hours beginning March 2nd. Kids must drop back finished Coloring Sheets by April 11 back to Studio 23. Winners will be announced April 18th at the Giving Garden Youth Art Show and Spring Fest.
Call for Youth who would like to show their art at the April 18th Art Show: Contact the Garden for more information.
Call for Youth who would like to sell their art/crafts: Free opportunity to sell local, homemade art/crafts for youth 17 years old and younger.
Call for Adult local artists vendors: $20 to sell local homemade art/crafts at our April 18th event.
March 14: Kokedama (Japanese ‘moss ball’ string garden) Workshop 10am-Noon. Join us in our March Garden design series on Kokedama hanging gardens as we learn how to make and care for these traditional Japanese garden art forms stemming from the art of bonsai. Meets at the Giving House Sunroom: 79 Cooper Lake Road SE, Mableton. Supply fee: $20. Space is limited. Register at: www.checkout.square.site/buy/NNEJ4F7H6O7O6X4CH4ZJEY6Z
March 21: Cactus Class and Plant Swap 11-12:30p: Learn the basics about cacti, care and propagation. The class is free, but donations are welcome. Class taught by Stacie and held in the Giving House Sunroom: 79 Cooper Lake Road SE, Mableton. Call or text with questions: 770-779-5058.
March 21: Volunteer Orientation and Group Workday: 10am-1pm