Seed Starting Pre-season

This weekend I am planting seeds, which for a gardener, is kind of like the first game of pre-season for baseball fans. The effort doesn’t really count towards the fruits of the season (after all, half the prospects  in front of you will be tossed from the team, given away or traded before you even get them in the field — not to mention you still have a good 2 months before you get to see any real play), but the winter has been long and it is comforting and exciting to get some kind of action in.

But in sorting through my seed collection, inventorying the plethora of seeds I own and which ones will make the cut this year, I came to contemplate the wonder that is a seed.

Many people think of it as a baby plant, but in fact it is really a plant womb.   And an incredible one at that. Much like chicken eggs, it contains everything that a baby plant might need to survive until it can fend for itself. But unlike a chicken egg, seeds can stay viable for years, centuries, millennia even.  Even the seeds that you bought 4 years ago when you went on the $100 “got to have all the seeds despite the fact that I don’t have room for all these plants” seed buying binge that are now shoved in the back of the garage still have a pretty good chance of still growing a perfectly healthy plant. Hint: If you find a 4 year old chicken egg in the back of your fridge and you crack it open to see if it is still viable, you had better be bringing a biohazard unit with you.

Seeds can be small. The smallest seeds in the world weigh less than 1/35,000,000th of an ounce, can’t be seen by the naked eye and comes from epiphytic orchids.   Needless to say, the epiphytic orchid farming industry probably does not take place in someone’s kitchen with cups filled with dirt and tweezers.

The largest seed in the world is from the double coconut palm and weighs 55 lbs. Double coconut palm farmers apparently are sought out as husbands in areas that they grow because they are also well known for their ability to move heavy objects and open jars.

The use of seeds to further a plant species is a biological adaptation that is over 385 million years old. The first known plant to produce seeds was Elkinsia polymorpha. It developed during the Late Devonian period. And just to make sure we humans feel pretty pathetic, this means that plants have been making seeds since before there was Starbucks, humans, mammals and even dinosaurs.

So my little league team of seeds has an evolutionary connection to an All Star cast. Really, I will be happy if they just sprout. But, until the field of play is thrown open, I can dream about a World Series season out in my garden.

11 thoughts on “Seed Starting Pre-season
  1. Mary on

    I was wondering if you started all of your vegies from seeds or do you also buy starts as the weather warms?

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    Nathan (2af) Reply:

    I start seeding my first plants in January which are onions. Then come peppers and celery in February and finally everything else the first week of March.
    Do you always wait so late in the season to start your seeds?

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    Hanna Reply:

    Yes, in Cleveland, the ground does not really warm until after Memorial Day. Putting in tomatoes and the like it almost pointless before teh ground is warm. Heck, we can still get snow as late as the end of April.

    I could start them sooner, but I have learned from experience that they will either spend too long in pots inside or I will get impatient and end up losing a few outdoors if I start any sooner.

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    Hanna Reply:

    I buy starts too. Really, I cannot helpmyself. Cute baby plants just make me want to spend money. :)

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  2. Mary on

    I am in Cleveland too and was wondering where you get your seeds. I was going to order online, but if there is a good local source you can recommend that would be great.

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  3. I never really thought about seeds being a tiny womb, but its true. We just started our seeds here. The last frost is usually at the end of May, an we have even had a snowstorm at the beginning of may before. Gotta love the plains where weather can change at any moment.

    The smallest seed I planted was for wild strawberries, and the largest were for eggplant. I have a few larger ones (summer squash) but I plant those directly. I can’t wait to see some of the gardens spring to life this year.

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  4. I am totally amazed by the idea of a 55lb seed – what kind of medium would it grow in and how long does it take ot reach maturity? I shall have to go and google …

    Meantime, we are starting everything three weeks later than last year, here in the UK, owing to inclement weather, but I find that already the earliest germinators are only 5 days behind last year, rather than 21. I think I may take a leaf from your book on this matter!

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  5. In Germany we have 52°F today and everyone wants to start seeding. But we have proverb that says (just a transaltion of the sense): if you seed me in april I will grow when I will, if you seed me in may, I will grow instantly :) That is why I will wait for some more weeks until I will seed directly into the garden. Regards from Germany!

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  6. Trish on

    Always exciting to start a new crop of seeds. Do you use anything to protect them from insects? I have the most terrible time trying to protect my plants while remaining organic. Do you have any suggestions? I heard about Safer Brand EndAll spray. Have you tried it yet? It kills a large variety of bugs and at all stages of development.
    This is the spray I’m talking about:
    http://www.saferbrand.com/store/garden-care/5102

    [Reply]

    Sarina Reply:

    You are right Trish. Green living became impossible for me when my tomato garden destroyed last year because of late blight. I hate to use pesticide. I think I’ll try the spray.

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