Planning for Spring: Propagating Seeds

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Maybe it’s the bright winter morning sun or that holidays are a month in the past, but like every year I think about a spring garden around this time. Yes, I had sowed some kale, spinach, chard and mustard greens seeds in the late fall in preparation for the spring garden in my greenhouse. And there are still some carrots and beets left in the beds as they are surrounded by garlic and turnips sprouting. But to me it just doesn’t have the same impact that propagating fresh seeds does for a feeling of renewal as part of the cycle of life.

So this morning I perused my stored vegetable seeds and decided which ones to start now and which could wait another month or so. In selecting and betting that this will be a warmer than usual and earlier spring, I started the process. A very easy way to begin and one that’s worked in the past is to tear some sheets of paper towels, dampen and lay them flat on a surface. I spread seeds of crops that I want to grow on paper towels, roll them up, place in baggies which are labeled with a marker. This year, I am placing a heat mat under the baggies to accelerate sprouting. In the past, this could take up to 10 days. When seeds have sprouted roots, I place them individually in a labeled container under grow lights or incandescent bulbs.

There are many great sources for organic seeds. But I have to remind myself that Santa Fe, NM is in Climate Zone 6A, a cool growing climate. This means that plants have to be started earlier indoors and timed to reach a certain level of vegetative maturity before transplanting outdoors. It is important to gradually introduce plants to the outdoors so they will acclimate better to the winds and cool temperatures. Ideally I like to transplant about 2 weeks before the last frost, which is always a guess. Not all crops will be successful everywhere without taking additional measures for supplemental heating and cooling or protection with plastic or frost cloth.

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