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Sowing Your Seeds

Growing your own veggies from seed to harvest lets you experience very closely God’s miracle-working power of a seed’s germination and transformation into beautiful, tasty and nurtures food. It depends on the amount you are growing, but in general we can say, that it is cheaper to sow on your own than buying the „ready-made “plants in a local nursery. You are also not as much limited to the grown types of vegetables and flowers that you can find - seeds offer a wide range of varieties to try. And the best news is that it isn’t a very hard task to grow them. Minimal equipment is needed…

Another advantage is, that when you plant your own seeds, you have control over the way the plant is raised - organic, healthy and strong vegetables right from the start, grown with enough light, nutritious soil and also enough resistant to survive the climate you are living in. You can observe them every day and see, when they stagnate - then you can react right in the beginning before bigger problems are arising.


If you are a beginner, it is general very helpful to start small by growing just a few varieties. I know, in the beginning there is a lot of enthusiasm, but it is better to add every year some more kinds and be able to care for and observe them well. Some seeds - like tomatoes, radishes, carrots, basil or arugula - are especially easy to start…

Which seeds are the best?

Sometimes it is better to look for regional companies. They may carry varieties better suited to your area.

It depends on your garden plans and your time, but I like to take seedfast heirlooms (non-hybrid). If the veggies are not too complicated, I like to grow my own seeds and use them again - like tomatoes, lettuce, radish, beans, peppers, … But I have to say that heirlooms are not yielding as much as the hybrid varieties.

When purchasing seeds, it is also good to plan always a few extra, just in case. Some seeds won’t germinate, or they will inexplicably die of later.


You can cover now the seeds and close the furrow with your hand. If you have bigger seeds as beans or peas you can also use a rake and gently push the soil from the sides into the furrow.


It would be good, if 1-2 weeks before seeding the beds would get ready for sowing. In this way the weeds can already start to germinate and when you are coming with your seeds two weeks later, you can simply use a hoe to cut off the weeds just below the soil line (very shallow), either by pushing or pulling it. Just make sure not do stir up too many weed seeds down from the deeper layers…

Some Decisions to Be Made

The special needs of every variety of plant must be studied. Different varieties require different soil and cultivation, and compliance with the laws governing each is the condition of success.” Ed 111.3

Different seeds require different ways to start. This can vary a bit but in general we have:


1. Plants that prefer direct seeding:

Carrots, parsnips, turnips, radishes, potatoes, dill, parsley, spinach, leaf lettuce, arugula, peas, green beans, poppies


2. Veggies to be transplanted:

Cabbage family (Cabbage, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, etc.…), celery, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, basil


3. Both ways are fine for those:

Swiss chard, beets, corn, cucumbers, pumpkin, squash, watermelon, muskmelon


Those that are fine with both ways enjoy it the most when sown for transplanting in bigger containers – in this way the roots are not bruised and they can continue to grow immediately after transplanting.


The transplants do not necessarily need to be grown indoors. You can also sow them in a line in hot beds and transplant them when they are ready - that is the way like our grandmothers did it…


By the way, this might be also interesting for you: Ellen White was transplanting little beets and even spinach, while later she was direct seeding carrots, parsnips, beets and cabbage seeds (3LtMs, Lt8, 1882, par. 1&3). The Huntsville School received instructions to grow as early as possible tomato transplants (PCO 121.7).

1. Direct Seeding

If you have a hoop house or a small tunnel, you can soon start with direct seeding some leaf lettuce, radishes, beets or arugula. I would but cover it with row cover. The other veggies will have to wait still a little until it gets warm.


It would be good, if 1-2 weeks before seeding the beds would get ready for sowing. In this way the weeds can already start to germinate and when you are coming with your seeds two weeks later, you can simply use a hoe to cut off the weeds just below the soil line (very shallow), either by pushing or pulling it. Just make sure not do stir up too many weed seeds down from the deeper layers…


To prepare the beds for sowing use either a broad fork or a tool similar to it to get to loosen the ground a bit. If possible, add some compost or some other natural fertilizer. Now take a rake and try to level the bed and get the crumbs of the soil away (rake them until they fall apart). The finer the soil the easier will it be to cover the seeds and to water them.


Now you can make a little furrow with a how or a stick. If you want to make more rows in one bed use simply a rake and put over some of the teeth a little longer plastic pipe. Like that you can determine the distance of the rows and the amount per bed (according to the instructions of your seed package). If you pull this rake now over your bed, you have as little furrows as you need.

By the way: Sometimes it is frustrating when the rows are not becoming straight enough. Mostly it helps it you walk a little faster and if you are not all the time looking at the furrows but, in the direction, you are walking…

As everything is prepared, you can start to sow the seeds by hand or by a precision seeder. There are many different precision seeders available, but I ended up by using the simplest one. Our soil is just too soft to use to heavy things on it…


Seeding by hand works totally fine too. Use your thumb to control the number of seeds sliding from your hand into the furrow. Make sure not to bring dirt or moisture into your seed package otherwise it will start to germinate in there and next time you want to use it, it will not start or at least not all of them. It helps if you take out some seeds into a small tray and hold this in your second hand instead of the whole package. And before you put the leftover seeds back into the package, dry them on the sun.


You can cover now the seeds and close the furrow with your hand. If you have bigger seeds as beans or peas you can also use a rake and gently push the soil from the sides into the furrow.

How deep should the seeds be planted?

For direct seeding there is a different rule than for planting in trays or containers. Actually, it depends on your soil. In general, cover the seeds to three or four times their diameter. If you have cool or heavy types soils, plant it a little shallower. If your soil is warm or dry, plant it slightly deeper. If you are not sure, check the seed package - mostly there is also an advice given.


Only one thing is now missing: Water… Make sure to water well but not to flush the seeds away! I can tell you a secret: Even if it is looking like raining soon, it is better to water immediately after sowing. One reason is because the seed needs to soak and swell a little, but the more important reason for now is, that water compacts the soil and makes sure, that the seed is all around in contact with the soil. This helps for later not do dry and die so quickly…


2. Sowing in trays

Sowing under cover while conditions outside are still less than ideal means you can raise strong, healthy seedlings safe from chilly winds, cold nights and pests. You can effectively bring the start of the growing season forward by up to two months.

Cool-season crops - like onions, lettuce or cabbage - do not need quite so much mollycoddling. But tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and celery need some more temperature and care.

When to start?

Usually, the seed package will say something like, “Plant inside six to eight weeks before the last frost”. The best is to plan your garden year already in spring and have a garden calendar ready with every week’s tasks. This is so helpful to keep up with everything. But this is also a completely different topic…


If you sow too early in the season, you will end up having to transplant seedlings into bigger containers more often because conditions outside still aren’t suitable. This needs a lot more potting mix and puts pressure on valuable space in the house or under cover.

There are many different Garden Planners and Planting Calendars available which can help to find the right time for each kind of veggie to be planted. Of course, you have to adapt them to your climate or find the right one for your area. Here would be an example: Sowing and Harvest Table from Thompson-Morgan


Which containers or trays to use?

You can sow seeds in a proper seed tray bought from a store. Alternatively, you can use old flowerpots, empty food containers or anything like that will fit on your windowsill. Anything that is at least 5-7cm deep and if there are no holes in the bottom of the container, make some with a drill or a nail that excess water is allowed to drain and not to make the soil overly wet.

Make sure that all the containers or trays you use are clean to avoid bringing into your new crop some old sicknesses or other things (leftovers) that hinders your plants from growing.


There are also plug trays or quickpots in all shapes and sizes available. The advantage is that every plant is separated and has already some distance. Some people do not like to use those round plastic things. The reason is because the roots are growing along the walls of the pot and the plants get circular roots. They found out, that even if the plant is already transplanted, the roots are still growing circular and the plant is not rooted deeply to supply itself enough with nutrients and water. Hm, I need to say honestly, that I have found some plants doing so, but that happened to me only, if I was late and the plant was suffering already for a while in a little pot…

The better alternative would be the use of peat pots. But they are not as cheap and you cannot reuse them again…

Of course, there would be the whole topic on using soil blocks. In soil blocks the roots are not growing circular. If the seedling’s roots are growing to the „wall “of the pot, it feels some air and it stops to grow in this area. Later on, when transplanting in the field, the seedling takes roots quickly. To produce soil blocks you need a soil block maker. There are some block makers available in different sizes, but that are again some extra expenses…

Back in the company I was before we were using soil blocks a lot, but we had a commercial machine for that. Until now I didn’t start to do it again because somehow, I do not want to make things too complicated and extraordinary that almost nobody can copy it simply at his/her place…


There is also the possibility to make your own pots out of newspaper: How to make recycled newspaper pots for seed starting


What soil to use?

Many people say, it must be a sterile soil or compost or you will have problems with weeds or different sicknesses. Well, we barely have problems with sicknesses and if so – garlic treatment really helps. But problems with weeds I know too much… If our compost is done in the right way, there are not many seeds of weeds left in it and we do not need to sterilize it.

For our seed trays I like to use 2 parts of compost, 1 part of garden soil and 2 parts of peat moss (or coco fiber would work too).

Of course, it would be nice to use in addition also 1 part of perlite (ultra-lightweight volcanic glass resembling) and 1 part of vermiculite (natural micaceous mineral) to give a better drainage, aeration and higher water-absorbing properties. But as we try to keep it simple till now, it works for us to buy just some peat moss and for some crops we mix it with some sand.


You can also either buy an organic quality seed raising mix or you use a quality all-purpose potting mix. If you get the all-purpose potting mix make sure that it is not too lumpy. If it is so, screen or sieve it to give a finer, more even texture suitable for sowing seeds. It still will not drain as well as a seed raising mix and is richer in nutrients - you have to observe the young seedlings well and react on time, if they do not like to grow anymore. But in most cases, it will do fine.

Filling the containers/trays

Before you fill the soil into the containers, it is good to moisten it well. Take a watering can, water the soil and mix it well. The goal is to get it moist but not sopping wet; crumbly, not cloggy or sticky. If you take some soil into your hand and press it together, you should be able to get out some drops of water. But when you loosen your hand, the soil should not stay pressed into your hand palm but expand a little again.


Fill the containers completely with soil - it will anyways compact and get smaller. If you use a seed tray, take a piece of wood and press the soil at least one centimeter down. Make sure to press on the sides some more - that will help later when watering. A tray always dries from the sides towards the middle. If you water and the surface on the sides are lower than the middle, the water automatically flows to the side where it is needed more…


If you have plug trays or quickpots, fill them also with soil completely. Lift the tray approximately 10 centimeters and let it fall back evenly - make sure you have a flat and even surface underneath. Like that you compact the soil in every section of the tray. Now you have to fill it again and do the same thing once or two times more.

I know, many people fill this tray and compact every section with their fingers. This works too, but costs much more time.

Place and cover the seeds

For placing the seeds, you can make shallow depressions with your fingertips. Lettuce, onions or beets you can sow in pinches of three to five seeds per plug or pot - planting out as a cluster of seedlings. Some people plant two seeds per pot or cell. If both seeds germinate, you can snip one and let the other grow…

If you do broadcast seeding (which means simply to spread the seeds over the whole tray or container), you can fold the back of the seed package in the middle and hold it between your thumb and middle finger. Use your index finger to shake the package and to control how many seeds fall out of the package.


Sieve a little more soil over the top of your trays or containers. There is a rule of thumb: plant a seed twice as deep as it is wide…

Some seeds do not like to germinate in darkness: celery, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, ray, dill, basil and caraway only cover very thin with soil as a protection against drying out

These veggies need darkness during germination progress: lambs’ lettuce, squash, chicory, eggplant, cucumbers, parsley,

The other veggies are easy going and easy to be cared for. If the have enough air, temperature and water, they are content.


Labeling

Do not forget to label your new crops. Write down the variety and date of sowing. You can use small plastic labels or re-use cut up plastic bottles or yogurt cups. Be careful, some pens (even permanent markers) are not enduring the sunlight and water - the best is to use simply a normal pencil. It is easy to erase after the session and reuse the label again.

Watering

As I mentioned at the direct seeding, watering after sowing is quite important. You can use a watering can or hosepipe fitted with a fine rose, go over the trays a couple of times so that the soil is completely moistened through. Be careful not to wash away the seeds and not to bring them to the surface. To use a spray mister from an empty recycled window cleaner bottle has in this area also some benefits.

Cover the seed tray

To cover the seed tray or the containers with a piece of glass, a magazine, a slate, a piece of plastic, some cardboard, or an extra made propagating cover prevents the soil from drying out.

If you use plastic, you can poke a few holes in it with a toothpick for ventilation. Otherwise mold growth can occur if containers are not allowed to „breath “.


As soon as the seeds germinate, expose them to the light. Uncover them otherwise they will rapidly become straggly, with overly long, thin stems.

The place to grow

You can even stack trays up after sowing to save on space. Just be careful, after some days you have to check daily for signs of germination. Then move them either to a greenhouse or to more windowsills.


1. Temperature It should be about 18-24°C. As already mentioned, for the cabbage family, lettuce and onions it does not need to be that much.


2. Light Make sure there is enough light. For sure the best is at the windowsill or in the green house. If you have a window on the roof it is also a nice place… Plants grow tall and leggy when they do not receive enough light. You can turn the tray or container each day, so the seedlings are evenly lit. If you have your containers already outside, avoid strong sunshine and wind on them.


3. Water Check the moisture daily: If you lift up the trays or containers you will get soon a good feeling to judge how much moisture there is in the soil. Let the soil dry slightly between watering. The closer the seeds are to the surface, the more careful you have to be, in order not to let it getting too dry. If it is too dry and you cannot get it moist anymore: to achieve a thorough watering immerse trays into a reservoir to soak up water through their drainage holes. Remove them once you can see it gets moist at the surface.


Now is everything done, what man can do. Now is the time to trust that the unseen agencies do their work, as it is so nicely explained here: “He (God) employs many unseen agencies to make the seeds apparently thrown away, living plants. First appear the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. God creates the electricity that gives life to the seed, vitality to the blade, the ear, and the corn in the ear. Who else can be depended on to give the due proportion required of all the agencies to perfect the harvest of fruits and grains? Let man employ his agencies to the utmost limit; he must then depend on his Creator, who knows just what is needed for the harvest, which is connected to Him by wonderful links of His own wonderful power beyond the human agency. Without these unseen agencies, seed is valueless.” 3MR 322.1

Some trouble shooting

1. In general, if your seedlings get spindly, lower the temperature, reduce the amount of fertilizer and water and give them some more light…

2. When the stems of young seedlings become withered and topple over, a soil-borne fungus called “damping off” has probably killed them. In this case you need to make sure to provide good air circulation. I also like to take a head of garlic, blend it in 1 liter of water and spray this mixture on the plants. That helps immediately.

3. When mold is growing on the top of the soil it is an indication, that it is too wet. It will not harm your plants as long as you take action. Withhold water for a few days and try to increase air circulation around the containers by using a small fan. You can also scrape off some of the mold or try transplanting the seedlings into fresh soil.

I hope you are now a little more equipped and not confused by some things. There is a nice promise for you in Isaiah 28:26 (MKJV) – it talks about a plowman: “For his God doth instructs him to do right; his God teaches him." The same thought is repeated here: “He who taught Adam and Eve in Eden how to tend the garden, would instruct men today. There is wisdom for him who holds the plow, and plants and sows the seed.” FE 326.1


And in the end, I want to remind once more on the fact that our Creator is the one, who is responsible for the success. But while we are doing the best work, what we know and can do, He is doing something with us, or better to say in us, that brings us even more than just food for tomorrow.


“He who causes the seed to spring up, who tends it day and night, who gives it power to develop, is the Author of our being, the King of heaven, and He exercises still greater care and interest in behalf of His children. While the human sower is planting the seed to sustain our earthly life, the Divine Sower will plant in the soul the seed that will bring forth fruit unto life everlasting.” COL 89.1


Christina Brandtner had the privilege to be trained as a gardener in an old little garden market. She is working at TGM Austria since more than 10 years and is still gaining knowledge and practical skills in gardening and in working with students.




 

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