Thursday, April 4, 2013

Madame Beespeaker's Seed Starting Tips

One of our Chinese Canadian neighbors has given us a lovely chayote squash to plant. There are three neighbors who grow them around here, with elaborate trellises which hang with the mysterious prickly fruits. My friend Maria says she knows it as Buddha's Hand Squash, because it resembles praying hands. I think it looks like a gnarly baby's bum, but it does have personality, whatever it resembles.

The squash is in my back porch, which becomes a potting shed-come-greenhouse at this time of the year, with soil, pots, seeds and various art materials all vying for space. I recycle pots and use recycled containers as trays under the pots, so every year I have the daunting task of cleaning the pots. They have been outside all winter and they are dirty, manky, slug-ridden objects of horror. This year, I have taken a tip from my garden mentor, Catherine, and I am going to start a few seeds at a time. This means I wash a few pots at a time, slowing down my life to treat them with the love they deserve.

 I head to the Soap Dispensary on Main Street for advise. How can I make sure there is no fungus on my pots so that all that love and attention does not go to waste? Without hesitation, Linh presents me with the one word solution. Vinegar. That sounds great, but my gut feeling says that washing and scrubbing the pots in soapy water and then dipping them in a vinegar solution is probably the best thing. I will experiment.

 I bought some (extra strong) cleaning vinegar, a scrubbing brush made of rice fiber and some lovely ecologically friendly soap. I turn on my radio, and start the ritual of cleaning the pots.

Once the pots are dry and I've decided what to plant, consulting the charts, the stars, and my heart's desires, I get ready to plant. Some of the little pots have become damaged, so I perform triage with gaffer tape (duct tape). This becomes the best place to label the pots. I really should sift the potting soil, as it has big piece of wood in it, but I have just been picking those pieces out as I go along. Water the seeds with warm water,  cover with plastic wrap (which you can use over and over again if it is cleaned). These go on warm windowsills inside, on top of the fridge, and any warm cosy place you won't forget about them until they sprout, after which the plastic comes off and they go into the porch.

Some new things I've learned are:

1) Put a fan in the seedling room to prevent damping off
2) Pet your seedlings so that they become stronger
3) Turn your seedlings, so the stems dance toward the sun and become stronger on all sides

Do you have any seed-starting tips?

I have to plant many of my seeds indoors because it gives the plants a fighting chance against the slugs. Root vegetables, corn, and some flowers like poppies don't take well to transplanting, so do your research and find out what you should plant indoors. I have seen almost every vegetable available for sale as seedlings in flats (including root vegetables), so if that appeals to you, go for it. I just love starting things from seed. It's magic.


  1. Hi, do you have any chayote available? Im intersted in buying or trading a couple

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