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Monday, March 14, 2016

The Birds Are Chirping, The Gnats Are... Gnatting (?) And The Republicans Are Cannibalizing Each Other. Yay, It's Planting Season! #Gardening #SeedStarting #Vegetables

The Birds Are Chirping, The Gnats Are... Gnatting (?) And The Republicans Are Cannibalizing Each Other. Yay, It's Planting Season! #Gardening #SeedStarting #Vegetables

Photo courtesy of Google 

It's Spring... almost. OK, it's not officially spring yet, however, much of the northern US has felt an unseasonably warm winter for the last two weeks and it doesn't appear to be going away. In any case, whether the weather was warm or not (do I get bonus points in this blogging thing for psuedo-alliteration there?), now is the perfect time to think ahead to the spring, summer, fall growing seasons. So get off your butts, put those #TrumpRally protest signs away, make sure you don't accidentally congratulate Nancy Reagan for something she really didn't do and grab your seeds. It's seed-starting season (seriously, the alliteration points. Is that a thing or...)!!

For those new to the blog, I'd like to first take this moment to welcome you. You're wondering why there's a post about gardening on an entertainment blog. Well, kickback because it's a short story that I'm gonna make excruciatingly long. It began back way long ago, about less than a year or so... And then I discovered funny stuff is, like, totally amazing... But who knows if they can actually grow tubers in space, you know what I mean? Plus, what would the chemical makeup of those potatoes be? Hell, some sweet potatoes come out purple just from having been grown in Asian countries. I'm just sayin'... So I say to the guy, "Well, Jimmy cracked corn but I don't care." Ha! Right. Get it? Because his name was James, which has a nickname of Jimmy? Technically, he only goes by James, but I still thought it was funny. Anyway, I said all of that to say this: this blog is about all forms of entertainment, including entertaining (wait for it) guests, or just yourself. And what do you do when you are entertaining guests but make them stuff to eat? And somebody's gotta grow your food, right? You're not one of those weird Air-i-ans, are you? Lately, everybody's been talking about the Air-i-ans that survive on air alone, or those Air-i-ans that think they're the master race and I guess they have a grand wizard or somethin'--I don't know. Magic has always been confusing to me. But even if you were one of those people, you gotta eat at some point. Why not try your hand at growing your own food, especially for health reasons.

So, where do we start? Well, this is for newbies to the home gardening culture. Debate still rages on whether you should start all your plants from seed or buy them from your local big box store. To opine, I say do what's comfortable for you when easing into this thing. My 1st year I didn't buy anything, planted some seeds out in the ground and grew one small tomato plant that produced two tomatoes. One never ripened and ants ate the other one--picture not included. Year two I ran out and bought myself a chocolate cherry tomato plant, perfected my ability to grow from seed and have been saving seeds from the cherry tomato ever since. Scroll way down or check the gardening tag and you'll see I've added a lot of new produce to the garden since, all grown from seeds or tubers. This will be a tutorial on how to grow from seed, so if you aren't doing that and don't care, that's fine. Still read it. Why? I don't know. Do you have anything else to do... or read? I should point out at this time that I am an author. Check my books out on amazon, links below. If you want to learn how to do seeds, then this is the place for you.


OK, before we begin to throw seeds around and start stuff all willynilly, we need to figure out what we want to grow and what is best started in our garden. Below is a picture of my garden pre-winter cleanup.

As you can see I have the big compost pile sitting near the center there. Then the rest of it just looks like a big muddy, leafy mess. Even the side opposite the patio path looks heinous. Good! It just came out of a long winter with temperatures that varied wildly from 70 (in Northern Ohio) to 12. By the time I'm done with the cleanup, it'll look suitable for growing and a little showing off. What's important to note is that the design and the space allocated to the veggies is all pre-planned before planting anything. The long stretch of garden separated by the path is where my winter or cold-hardy plants tend to go as they are out of the way. Just across from them at the part that looks like an arrow is also where more of my cold-hardy plants go. What are the cold-hardy plants I'm growing, you ask? Or, Michael, more importantly, "what plants that I want to plant are cold-hardy?" Simple. 

They are:
Nearly all lettuces: Iceberg, Romaines, any other loose-leafs.
Cruciferous plants: Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Collard Greens (or greens of any type), Kale
Potatoes (Warning: White Potatoes only, not Sweet Potatoes. Wow! Reading that out loud sounded so racist. Not all white potatoes are white. Uh... yeah.)
Other Tubers: Beets, Turnips
Swiss Chard
And only certain types of green peas.

For everything, you want to check your seed packet for possible planting times, however, the plants listed above are considered cold-hardy (some extremely so, like beets and Brussel Sprouts) because they can survive temperatures as low as 29 degrees with minimal to no damage. That doesn't mean they're invincible as you may still have to take a certain care with them if a late deep frost below 20 comes and knocks things out, but you should be safe with these.

Now, at this time some of you are saying, "But I don't see what I want to grow on that list. What about me?" Well, just hold on to your britches because they might not be on that list but that doesn't excuse them from being started from seeds this early in the season. I'm just listing those because you can risk throwing them out into the cold, workable ground right now and they'll grow. However, if you want a surefire way for any of your seeds to grow just hang on.

That last paragraph is in reference to the most commonly grown vegetables that people love to eat and almost everyone grows: Tomatoes and peppers... and some sweet potatoes too. Is it OK to start tomatoes and peppers this early? Well, it depends and yes, respectively. I have started both all my tomatoes and pepper plants already. In fact, I still have four pepper plants as holdovers from last season. However, tomatoes can be tricky in that, unlike peppers, they will need staking at some point and they classify both as determinate and indeterminate. I'm sure you, my smart readers, know what those mean but for younger or more inexperienced readers, indeterminate means they may produce all season long until a killing frost in fall/winter. Determinate means they will produce for or at a specific time in the season or their growth cycle and then that's it. A bunch of tomatoes, then nothin'! For the latter, wait later toward the summer (early to mid-May) to start as you won't have them long anyway. Indeterminates can be started right now but both them and the peppers must be kept inside. The sweet potatoes I will do a completely different post on, but suffice it to say that you can start them now, too.

Now, as for the seeds themselves, today I am starting these packets of seeds. Unseen, I am also starting my lettuces because I don't want it to get too hot too quick. Lettuce not only does great in the cold, it must have a certain amount of coolness or it will begin to bolt or put on seed, which makes the leaves taste bitter. This often happens during the dog days of summer when temperatures rise above 78 degrees. So if you're in a warmer climate than Ohio, make a note to start your seeds even earlier next year.

I Get Seeds From All Over: Burpee, NK, Seeds of Change,, SeedSavers

For this, you will need.
One bottle of clean water. It can be from the faucet, however, it is best to let it sit for a day to allow some of the chemicals to die back. #Water4Flint

A roll of paper towels. I usually get the half sheets rather than the big square ones (mine are rectangles). You can also use napkins but don't completely unfold the napkin. You want the seeds to be able to be covered by a semi-thick layer of paper.

And finally, one plastic Ziploc bag or many depending on how much you plan to plant and what you have available to you. As an incidental or added need, you may want to have a permanent marker for marking your seed bags and you may want to have a ton of bags, one for each seed pouch. I am quite lazy and I just stuff as many seeds into one bag as I can and am then surprised at what I get. No, I don't label either, though I tend to have a good memory on what I placed where in the bag. You'll see.

Step one.
Remove a few seeds from one of your packets. I know, small (we're talkin' Trump-hands small). To me the cold-hardy plants tend to have smaller seeds than the warmer plants, with the exception of spinach and collard greens.

Step two.
Scatter them across the center of the dry towel. This is why I like the half-sheet rectangles because it is easier to get them centered and not waste the rest of the towel.

Step three.
Pour a tiny bit of water on the paper towel. Important: Wetting the paper towel before spreading the seeds may be easier for you, just make sure it is wrung out and not sopping wet. You want it to feel like you laid it on top of a tiny wet spot on your counter and let the water spread across the towel fibers rather than tried to wipe the wetness away. Damp or moist (mmm, moist. I love that word).

Step four.
You want to fold the paper towel like you are folding a letter, then fold it again at the ends to make sure the seeds don't roll out. Place it into the bag as far as you can. Do not seal the bag at any time! The seeds need the air to breathe. Again, if you have smaller sandwich bags you can do one type of seed per bag. If you have the bigger bags, you can fit in multiple folded paper towels and put a permanent marker mark on the plastic directly over the paper towel. For example, Broc written overtop the corner of the plastic would remind you of what's there. Remember to carry the bag flat on your palms so that the towels don't bunch together at the bottom or anything.
This is mid-fold. You want one small rectangle.
This is two already finished and neatly bagged

Step five.
This is where many people will differ from me. My house has a gas fireplace. I generally place the bag on the floor in front of the fireplace--right under it when it's not on, no less than a foot and a half away when it is on. But that is just me. The seeds need to be kept warm. While most people's homes are kept at or above 70 which should be enough ambient temperature for germination, some houses have deathly cold spots. So place the bag in a place that you know will stay between a constant 70-80. For cold-hardy plants it is actually OK to put certain seeds in the refrigerator instead as this will help them germinate quicker (I've done this for kale and collard greens). Others like tomatoes and peppers require the heat. Warning! Do NOT put them in a windowsill. Only seeds specifically stated to need sunlight should be put in a windowsill (Stevia, coleus plants).

And that's it. Simple, right? Leave the seeds there for about a week untouched. By the time you come back, they will have sprouted from their coatings and we'll be ready for step two, planting them in starters.
What do you think? Will you be trying to start all of your own vegetables from seed? If not, why not? It's so easy. If so, what do you plan on planting and what's your favorite dish to make with it? Let me know in the comments below (hint: click the no comments button if you see no comments).

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Until next time, "you reap that which you grow."

P.S. Wait, is that how that goes? Now I can't remember. But that could be an acceptable sign-off for my blog right? At least for the posts about gardening and stuff, right? Right? So what if it's cliche and derivative. I can't be creative all the time. Geez, Louise!

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