Imbolc seed starting
Every spring, my heart gets a bumpin’ and a Jumpin’ to start seeds for my garden. Where I live, my last frost is around the first week of May, so February/March is a good time to start seeds—first with cool season crops which can withstand a frost when transplanted and second priority, things like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants that you want to give a little head start. You don’t really need to start any quick growing things like cucurbits (pumpkins) or beans or corn. The three sisters do very well direct seeded (planted directly in the ground soil) after last frost.
Now, of course, nobody controls the weather, so last frost is iffy. Sometimes it can’t be helped and your entire young garden can get wiped out. Plan for this with backup starts if you’re starting seeds—extra seedlings make for wonderful gifts to friends, family, and neighbors.
The first things I do to prepare for the garden can really be done in any order. I want to make sure I organize my garden shed, seed starting supplies, and my gardening go bag for my car where I keep my gloves, spades, pliers, some wire, snips, and loppers. Gotta be prepared. This step can also be done when wrapping up in the fall but if you didn’t get to it, try to complete this before the next season starts.
Second, I plan out my garden vision by visually drawing a map of my gardens. I have two—the Cozy Cottage garden at home, and my community garden plot at the Floyd’s Fork of Beckley creek park. I like to make a distinction between spring and summer gardens. You can plant in succession through the season, starting with cool season, frost-tolerant crops like broccoli or lettuce, and moving on to corn squash and beans for the summer, when your beans die off or become unproductive, maybe plant some more! Carrots grown and harvested? Plant more! Fall comes and you can break out the cool season crops again, followed by a cover crop, and taDa, you’ve made the most of your year.
The third preparatory activity for my ideal path to my spring garden is to assess the seed collection situation. Do you have what you need? Do you need more? Seed catalogues can be quite enticing. My advice? If you have the funds, go nuts. You can save your seeds smartly and not have to buy any next year. Or, as Jess from Roots And Refuge proposed in 2023, get friends and split your order. Split your seed packets when they come in. Do you really need 30 tomato plants of a single variety in your year this year? Some people do. Assess appropriately. If you’ve never gardened before, buy a packet of seeds, “check some out” from a seed library for free, or ask a friend for some, and try 5 plants if you can have 5 5-gallon-bucket type containers, or say, 7 square feet (for space in between plants) of tilled ground soil.
Note: do not consume produce grown in treated ground. Heartbreaking realization for some but really, treat your bodies with care. If you treat your yard, try container gardening on your porch because poison is poison for weeds, bugs, rodents AND you.
So now we are prepared. You can start your seeds at any time, but if you want to be extra enthusiastic about it, you can make it more magical by tapping into green witch magic. Some people plant with a biodynamic calendar. The calendar lets you know which days the stars align best for starting your plants.
To actually start, you do need a few materials. Seed starting trays (one with holes in the bottom for drainage that sits inside of another with no holes in the bottom), good quality potting soil, seeds, grow lights, and optionally heat mats. I also like to add in my list of things I need, is a cat-free or animal and kid free area that gets good ventilation and isn’t hard to maneuver in. You want to make it an accessible spot, somewhere you’re gonna see your little plants and remember to care for them, and somewhere they will be secure with no risk to topple. The trays are not very quick to topple if you have them on a flat surface. Pro tip, if you have a bunch of little individual pots, you can load them into a tray to move them easier.
While actually starting the seeds, you can add magic to the mundane by reciting prayers, mantras, blessing your seed trays, sprinkling holy water, saving the area, reading a tarot card, playing soothing music or singing to your plants, and making offerings. You can continue offering these blessings as the plants grow. Remember to follow the seed packet directions for starting. Some seeds are tiny, so it’s hard to isolate them in the cells, but just do your best to only get 3 or four tiny seeds or one bigger seed in each cell or tiny pot.
Is that everything? Let me know what steps you do that I missed, and don’t forget to just have fun. I’ll write more blogs with pretty photos of my seed starting this year, as well as how to care for seedlings, types of watering, and later on in May, transplanting into the outdoor garden!! Blessings on your seed starting this year!!
Disco Chicken of Love
sTate fair ready!
seed starting 2019
ky state fair quilt
A sustainability major at U of L, beginning farmer, crafter, and writer.