Friday, June 22, 2012

June Garden Steps: Seeds or Seedlings?

The High Street Veterans Community Garden started three years ago in the High Street Veterans Public Housing Apartments. With advice and funding obtained by Bountiful Brookline and support of the Brookline Housing Authority, volunteers without previous gardening experience turned a brick and concrete terrace into a lush, productive garden that now serves 10 families. In this column HSVCG volunteers share step-by-step what they do each month to grow food in their garden at the top of the steps.

Seeds or Seedlings?

One Saturday morning in April we filled peat pots--small, biodegradable containers--with organic compost or starting mix, added our selected seeds, and thus initiated the germination process on the window sill of the High Street Veterans apartment building.  Johnny’s Select Seeds of Maine generously donated 37 packets of seeds to us, and we started parsley, basil, thyme, okra, hot peppers, onions, chives, oregano and tomatoes among other things.  Although growing from seed can be a painstaking process, it doesn’t hurt to try.  Some of our avid gardeners at High Street have even pondered the question of whether growing in a garden without starting from seed could even be considered true gardening!  The High Street Veterans Community Garden has done well this year buying packets of seeds instead of seedlings for our gardens.

To start the process we filled the peat pots with our chosen growing medium, planted the seeds according to depth instructions on the packages, and watered to keep the mix moist.  Over the next few weeks we watched as the seedlings began to sprout.  When they reached about 1-2 inches in height we moved the seedlings in their peat pots to our cold frame outside.  The cold frame is a bed with a plastic bubble lid that protects the plants from the cold.  Because of the unusually warm spring we were able to open the bubble top during the day, closing it during chilly nights, until the seedlings “hardened.”   This process took about a month.  In the meantime we prepared our 5’ x 4’ raised beds with organic compost and turned and raked to distribute soil, compost, nutrients and organic fertilizer evenly.  After about a month, our seedlings were sufficiently sturdy to be transplanted into the raised beds alongside directly seeded rows of bush bean, beet, carrot and lettuce seeds.
We placed our seedlings into the soil in squared sections of each plot. Then, we made sure to water them every day.