This spring I’ve decided to try something new with the seeds I’m sowing in my garden.
Typically, I’ll wait until after May 8 (last average frost day in Boise) to direct seed those warm-season plants like heirloom beans, winter squash and cucumbers right into the soil.
But this year I’m attempting to get a head start by starting these plants inside. I do know beans, squash and cucumbers prefer to be direct seeded in the garden. Yet I figured I can always plant more seeds outside in May. Why not experiment now?
First, I presprouted the seeds by placing them in wet napkins. Each plant variety was in its own napkin. Then I placed the napkins in a sealed plastic bowl or container. Tip: keep track of what you’re sprouting by making a list.
To avoid diseases, I prewashed my container with hot soapy water. (If I was particularly concerned, I could have also wiped it with 70 percent rubbing alcohol or rinsed it in diluted bleach water.) Each day, I opened the napkins to check on the seeds’ progress. This allowed a little air circulation, which was helpful for germination.
After several days, some seeds had sprouted. The fastest (from left to right) were burpless cucumbers, ‘Dragon’s Tongue’ beans and ‘Musquee de Provence’ squash. Once the seeds had sizeable roots, they were planted with seed starter mix into 4″ plantable pots to reduce transplant shock down the road.
I selected peat-free pots after learning recently that it takes 220 years to replace the peat stripped away in just one year from rare bog habitats. Read more on why peat harvesting is tough on the environment.
About a week later, the beans and squash had already started to grow into strong little plants, as you’ll see below.
Next steps: In about 5 days, I’ll start hardening off the larger plants in a sheltered part of my yard for about a week. Each day, I’ll gradually lengthen the time the seedlings are kept outside. Then it’s off to the garden plot.
Will they all survive? Or will some grow too large before it’s time to transplant? Very good questions. Tune in to see what happens… Meanwhile, how do you get your warm-weather plants off to a speedy start?