Each seed is a true miracle of life. One weighing a mere 0.8 micrograms that grows into a beautiful orchid contains the same vital information as the seed that eventually becomes a giant sequoia tree, which can reach heights of 76 m.
Left to nature, seeds inherently know when optimal conditions have been reached for germination and growth. This process is magical. It is the very sustainability of life. To have a hand in this by sowing seeds ourselves is wondrously exciting and inspirational.
Sowing seeds is as easy as preparing a garden bed, dividing it into rows, dropping seeds neatly in place and covering them with soil.
As long as you time the last frost date right, the seeds will take care of the rest of the process. However, certain conditions for germination and growth must be met:
An important factor for germination. Every seed is triggered by a change in temperature.
It either stimulates or inhibits seed germination. Some seeds need light, others require complete dark. General rule of thumb: large seeds are buried to twice their width in soil; tiny seeds should have little or no soil covering at all.
An essential phase of germination. It penetrates the seed coat and causes the endosperm to swell. When it splits, water dissolves the nutrients in the endosperm, making them available to the embryo which stimulates growth.
Needed by the embryo to break down the food stored in the seed.
It holds water as well as provides air and necessary nutrients to the germinated seed throughout its growth stages to full plant maturity.
Before you sow seeds in the ground, 5-7.5 cm of compost or well- aged manure should be spread and dug in. Next, mark your rows and sprinkle a little dolomitic lime along each row. Lightly work it into the soil. This last step is very important because soil pH is critical
to a plant’s ability to draw essential nutrients out of the soil. If the
pH is too low, or acidic, it binds many nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, making them inaccessible. If pH is too high, or alkaline, nutrients such as copper, manganese, zinc, and iron become inaccessible to the plants.
For avid gardeners, starting seeds indoors is a fun way to get a jump on the growing season. Windowsills will provide light to the seedlings, however, additional overhead lighting is optimal for seedling growth. But beware. Timing is very critical in growing seedlings to just the right size for transplanting outdoors exactly when the weather allows us into the garden. As long as you get the timing for the last frost date right (this information can be found online and/or you can keep weather records for your own garden, including this date), the seeds will generally take care of the rest of the process.
Some seeds, such as beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash need warm temperatures for best germination results. Other seeds, such as lettuce, peas, kale, and radishes, will let you push the sowing date ahead as they tolerate a light frost. As long as the soil is workable (not too wet), you can sow seeds that prefer cooler temperatures.
There really is something magical about growing our plants from seed. It provides an intimate connection to the birth of new life and exposes us to the wonder of nature. Could life get any better?
Leslie Cox is a gardener, writer, and educator in Black Creek, and is the “Duchess of Dirt” here in BC.