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Looking toward spring: how to start seeds

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
  • BY Alena Steen
  • Feb 12, 2021 Updated Feb 12, 2021
  •  Source: Coastal View

Starting seeds directly in garden soil is the simplest way to get a spring garden started. Make sure to label what and where you’ve planted to avoid surprises.

  • Joel Patterson

These large purple and black podded scarlet runner beans are delicious both fresh and dry, and one of the most beautiful seeds around. Beans are very easy to start from seed once the weather warms: Wait until mid to late May to plant out on the coast. Beans are also very easy to save for seed for next year’s crop. Simply allow beans to dry in their pods in the fall until they rattle, then remove the beans and store in a sealed glass jar or paper bag for next spring.

  • Alena Steen

Seeds come in all shapes, sizes and colors, from the tiniest specks of white sand which are chamomile and lettuce seeds to thick and robust pumpkin seeds and corn kernels. All seeds, no matter how tiny, contain a combination of genetic material from two parent plants. For as long as plants and humans have co-existed, humans have worked with the variability and diversity of plants’ genetic inheritances to create different varieties (or cultivars) of a plant, such as a more vibrant or fragrant flower, tastier pepper or cold-tolerant tomato.

Seeds contain genetic memory in the form of a plant embryo encased in a tough seed coat. Many seed coats are designed to facilitate one of several methods of mechanical dispersal away from the parent plant to reduce competition and increase the plant’s range. Depending on their structure, seeds can be wind-borne, snagged and carried along in an animal’s fur coat, dispersed and buried by foraging birds, awakened by wildfire or carried along in river or ocean currents to distant shores. Many of our tastiest fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, tomatoes, melons, peppers, cucumbers and eggplants evolved to tempt passing birds and mammals to eat their sweet fruit and deposit seeds in the ground as scat. 

Starting plants from seed is the simplest way to garden. You don’t need any special equipment other than a packet of seeds and some loose dirt rich in organic material. My method for direct seeding is to loosen compacted soil with a spading fork or shovel before layering about an inch and a half of homemade compost on top of the soil. I plant directly into the compost, which creates a weed-free seed bed full of fertility where seeds are quick to germinate. 

If you are planting a larger area, it’s easiest to dig a shallow furrow to plants seeds and then gently cover them with soil to the appropriate depth. In a smaller space, you can also simply tuck each individual seed into the soil. The general rule of thumb is to plant seeds twice as deep as they are large, though seed packets typically have a more precise suggestion. There are also several types of seed which should not be buried, since they rely on direct sunlight for germination. This is true mostly of certain types of cut flowers, and those directions should be clear on the seed packet.

Once you’ve dug your furrows or tucked seeds into the ground, it’s important to press the ground firmly to slightly compact the surface. Firm seed to soil contact is an important trigger for germination. As you wait for seeds to germinate, ensure the soil remains moist so that a thick crust does not form to inhibit germination. I gently water the soil surface every two to three days depending on temperature and cloud coverage. 

Once seeds have germinated (most veggies should take no more than a week, while certain cut flowers may take up to three weeks), it’s important to reduce watering to prevent soil-borne diseases and moisture-loving insect pests. Veggies and herbs that do well sown directly into garden soil this time of year include kale, lettuce, spinach, arugula, cilantro, dill, parsley, radishes, carrots, beets and turnips.

Many of our annual native flowers, as well as several cut flowers, germinate easily when broadcast on bare dirt just before rain for an effortless pollinator garden come spring. Flowers such as California poppy, phacelia, ornamental breadseed poppies, Queen Anne’s lace, love-in-a-mist and larkspur are all tough plants which grow quickly in cooler temperatures with some rainfall or supplemental hand watering. 

Another option is to start seeds indoors. This is a good choice if you have a lot of bird or insect pressure in your garden or are eager to increase the speed of veggie production, since seedlings often grow faster in a more controlled climate. The same techniques of seed depth, soil compaction and moisture retention apply. Make sure to choose a high-quality potting soil with enough fertility to ensure your seedlings a healthy life. My top choice is E.B. Stone Recipe 420 potting soil, which is certified organic and readily available at garden stores.

Some of my favorite sources for vegetable seeds with excellent germination rates and detailed growing instructions are Johnny’s Seeds, Siskiyou Seeds, Uprising Organics, Wild Garden Seeds and Plant Good Seed (based in Ojai). These are small to medium-scale growers saving and selecting seed on their farms and working toward a more diverse, sustainable and food-secure future. If you are curious to learn more about spring garden tasks such as building soil, preparing seeds beds and planting seeds or transplants, be sure to tune into the Garden’s upcoming Spring Gardening 101 Zoom class on Saturday, Feb. 20 at 10 a.m.

Alena Steen is coordinator of the Carpinteria Garden Park, an organic community garden located at 4855 5th St., developed by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. Community members rent a plot to grow their own fresh produce. For more information, visit carpinteriaca.gov/parks-and-recreation.

How will you start your seeds: in or outdoors? Last year the majority of our seeds began indoors. Select your space whether in or outdoors carefully. Where will your space be that you begin planting your seeds? Why did you choose that space?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Planning a visit?

echinacea plant shidonna raven garden and cook

Recently we had the pleasure of visiting one of the echinacea plants we sent out and her new owner in her new home. As reported she is doing well. She will grow to between 4 and 6 feet. Nonetheless, she has the potential to be a perfect fit for this urban environment. Like many flowers and herbs, echinacea has many medicinal benefits. Both her leaves and petals can be harvested for this benefit. One can also get echinaeca in pill form to take as a dietary supplement to help with booting the immune system just to name one of its medicinal benefits.

What type of environment do you live in? Urban or Rural? Where do you source your foods from? Which types of foods do you eat? How much processed and fast foods do you eat? How much whole foods do you eat? Do you grow any harvestbale plants? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Echinacea Flourishing at Home

echinacea plant shidonna raven garden and cook

When we sent this little echinacea plant to her new home she had 3 to 4 modest leaves. Since she has gone to her new home she has simply blossomed. Echineacea grows between 4 to 6 feet and should take up to two years to bloom. Her leaves and petals have many medicinal properties such as boosting the immune system, which is definitely a plus in the winter and particularly during a pandemic when people with pre-existing conditions can be at higher risk of catching COVID 19 than those who do not. Her new owner is looking forward to reaping the health benefits of this beautiful plant. Do you live in an urban environment like this echinacea plant owner? How do you care for your plants in your urban environment? What types of plants do you have or would like to have?

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Echinacea at home

Echineaca Plant Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

As we shared with you earlier this week, we are down to one plant. All other plants have found a new home and echinacea was one of them. I want to think her new care taker for being so patient as I prepared her for her new home. Since we are in the midst of a pandemic, I would be remiss not to tell you that among many medicinal benefits echinacea (one of our most requested plants) is a great source for building one’s immune system. With many with pre-exiting conditions being hit hard by COVID 19, Dr Peoples recommend that one take immune boosters to maintain good health during the pandemic. So echinacea, although it will take some time to bloom, is especially significant today.

Learn more about how echinacea can ‘enhance‘ your immune system and its healing powers:

Thank you for sharing an update and pictures with us! As we can see she growing up big and tall. She will grow about 4 to 5 feet tall. Plant holders like you are sending in pictures and keeping us updated on their plants progress. You can too by emailing us at contact@shidonnaraven.com. We love to get your updates and glad good things are sprouting around Hampton Roads and helping to keep people in good health. Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing.

Bring home your own parsley plant

Parsley Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
Parsley Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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For your Mother

Marigold Plant Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

My neighbor’s mother has many flowers and plants adorning her yard. Her plants are huge, beautiful and well kept. So, when my neighbor saw this marigold he was immediately attracted to the marigold that had not yet sprouted. Since he first spotted her, she has grown up into a little plantling. She is in a pot with plenty of room to grow. Her leaves are short and complex blades stacked closely upon each other. Many flowers sport their foliage long before you every see a bloom collecting in the sun’s resources and feeding its growth so that it can bloom. As we stated earlier this week, the last of our container plants went out this week to homes across the Hampton Roads area. This marigold was one of the last ones to be delivered this week. We are expecting beautiful things out of her. There are many varieties of marigolds so this one promises to be different from what you typically see.

We feel in love with marigold when we saw her because she was a much needed solution to our persistent ant problem. True to our organic goals we did not use any chemicals to manage the ant problem but strategically placed marigolds around the garden and in time our ant problem dwindled down to not visible. But, just because they are not visible does not mean they are not there. Nonetheless, it resolved our ant problems more than once. In fact, we sent one of these plants home to a neighbor’s house as a companion plant. The dill plant we sent to our neighbors house was covered in plants, so we sent the marigold over also. The ants soon disappeared.

Parsley Plant Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
Parsley Plant Shidonna Raven Garden and Cooks

Have you ever given someone flowers as a gift? Were they living: a plant? What are the benefits of giving flower plants as gifts rather than cut flowers? Consider our last plant: parsley as a gift for someone special. She has harvested consistently and is doing great. She is a flat leaf parsley plant packing a punch of flavor. Share your comments with the community by positing them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Eggplant in Bloom

Eggplant Flower Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Our beautiful eggplant is in boom sporting elegant lavender flowers. She has grown slowly but steady. Unlike our other plants across Norfolk, she is in the ground. This week we delivery the last of our container plants and only have one left. We have a few updates on the plants that have gone out. We hear that most of the plants are doing well. While some ran into more challenges than the other ones. These plants are perfect for this urban environment that these homes are in. Container pots offer a great deal of flexibility as they can be moved for a variety of reasons. Regardless of where your plants are they are sure to bring you much pleasure and benefit. What are your favorite eggplant recipes? Where are you writing from? What types of plants do you have? Share your comments with the community by positing them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Preparing Lavender for her new home

It is always a joy to see plants grow from seeds into plantlings. This particular lavender is now a plantling and ready for her new home, so we got her all prepared for the trip. For this lavender plant we did the following:

  • Picked up a clay pot that she would have plenty of room to grow in. she can stay in this pot, but if one puts her in the ground she will probably grow bigger. We chose a glazed clay pot with a bottom drain hole. The clay is a natural material. The glaze will keep moisture in and reduce the amount of water needed to water lavender. The drain hole at the bottom will keep one from over watering any plant.
  • Filled the pot with organic soil especially since she is edible
  • Transplanted her from her old pot to her new pot
  • Gave her a healthy dose of water, although she likes little water, so she could settle into her new home and recover from all the disruption of being transplanted
Parsley Plant Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Pick up your own parsley plant today.

The final plant is what she should look like, although she is just getting started. Are you ready to transplant your own plant? What questions do you have? Post them below. What will you grow in your own urban, or otherwise, garden? Share your comments with the community by positing them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Growing Lavender

5 Tips to Growing Lavender Perfectly No Matter Where You Live

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
Growing Lavender
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Recently we sent to a new home (what we believe to be) lavender. It could be in a very young stage or just a different variety but our lavender looks nothing like this. We could have mixed up our labels as well. For the most part we have done a pretty good job and know what everything is, so this is an unfolding mystery. The plant acts just like lavender in that it thrives on fairly dry soil with little water. It is always interesting to see how plants grow, but this shall be extra interesting. Thank you for taking this journey with us. There is always next year and we have plenty of lavender seeds. We pray she does very well in her new home. So far, we have only good reports.

Richard Bray’s Medicinal Mushrooms: A Practical Guide to Healing Mushrooms is a must have for your ‘medicine cabinet’ and library. It is a resource to the healing powers of mushrooms and which mushroom to eat for a particular medicinal benefit. We recommend getting up before it goes up. It was just published August 2020.

What plants would you like to see us grow next year? We already have a request in for strawberries. Which plants would you like to grow on your own? Which plants help with your particular health concerns? Share your comments with the community by positing them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing.

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Kitchen Garden Made Easy

How to create a kitchen garden

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
Kitchen Garden Made Easy
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Have you considered starting a kitchen Garden with a partner? Children can make wonderful kitchen garden partners. What would you grow in your kitchen garden? Would a kitchen garden be ideal for an urban space? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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Where to Buy Organic Seeds

seeds shidonna raven garden and cook

To truly grow organically one must first start with a seed that is organic. There are several other standards that the USDA require. True organic growers go even further than the USDA. These growers believe the USDA has relaxed its standards below what is truly organic in favor of corporate industrial farmers rather than true family farms. One will not always find organic seeds at their local garden center or nursery. When one does find organic seeds, the selection can be limited. Consequently here are a few sources for obtaining organic seeds:

  1. True Leaf Market
  2. Seed Savers Exchange
  3. Grow Green Space

Below is the book we read when we began our garden. Learn more about gardening and growing with Eliot Coleman’s book “The New Organic Grower”

Try these sources out and leave a comment for the community on what you thought. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.