Here’s some seed starting and growing info for the seeds that we have available this year at Antigonish Seedy Sunday. For all plants, see the notes below on Garden Success. We’re in Nova Scotia, growing zone 5B, with last spring frost usually early June, so sowing and transplanting dates below are for our zone.
Good luck with your gardens!
dtm = Days to Maturity, from transplanting (except Arugula, from germination)
Direct sow in the garden, 6mm (1/4”) deep and 30cm (12”) apart. All our flower varieties may also be started indoors in March or later.
Once the flowers are faded, remove them (“deadhead”) to encourage more blooms. Snip the flower stem just above the leaf or branch below.
Calendula: flower petals (the yellow or orange parts only) are edible fresh or can be dried for winter teas (may trigger allergies for those sensitive to ragweed). Calendula will self-seed freely for next year if the dead flowers are not removed.
Marigold: Our variety is Crackerjack, with plants 45-50 cm (18-24”) tall with large yellow and orange flowers.
VEGETABLES & HERBS
Arugula 35dtm. Sow in garden as soon as you can see the soil, or in a patio container, 2.5cm (1”) apart. Arugula needs light to germinate, so cover very lightly if at all. Thin to 8-15 cm (3-6”) (and eat the thinnings). Provide rich soil with good drainage and mulch. Arugula is best as a cool season crop, and winter-sown seeds will come up early in the spring. If the plants bolt in hot weather, the flowers are edible although the leaves will be bitter. Sow a few more every 2-3 weeks for continuous harvest.
Garlic Chives (perennial) Sow 5mm-1cm (¼-½”) deep and keep moist until germination. If starting indoors, use bottom heat until seeds germinate. Transplant either into containers or into the garden once the soil has warmed up. Space clumps 15cm (6″) apart. To harvest, snip leaves and flower stalks at ground level. Snip into salads or at the end of cooking anywhere you use garlic.
Kale 50dtm. Sow directly in the garden in early spring to mid-summer for summer to winter harvests. Or start indoors mid-April, and transplant to the garden as soon as the soil warms up. Sow 3-4 seeds 5mm (¼”) deep, then snip out all but the strongest plant once they get started. When transplanting to the garden, allow 50cm (20″) between plants. Kale likes well-drained, fertile soil high in organic matter and consistent moisture. Harvest as you need by cutting leaves off the stem from the bottom up. Watch for cabbage worms – the green larvae (about 2.5cm (1”) long) that munch on the leaves are the same colour as the leaves. Pick them off, or cover the plants with floating row cover (all season long) to prevent the white moth from laying her eggs on the leaves.
Lettuce 28dtm for baby leaves. Direct sow or start indoors in mid-March (for transplanting to the garden late April). Sow seeds 5mm (¼”) deep, or on the surface of the soil where the soil can be kept evenly moist. Transplant to the garden when 4-5 weeks old. Space or thin to 30cm (12”) apart for head lettuce, 20cm (8”) apart for leaf lettuce. If you will be harvesting mostly for baby leaves, sow and/or thin more densely, about 2.5cm (1”) apart. Harvest by snipping off lower leaves. Let the top few centre leaves remain (the growing point), so the plant will continue to grow. Sow a few more seeds every 2-3 weeks for fresh greens all summer.
paste: Amish Paste 85 dtm
early: Scotia 60 dtm
cherry: White Currant 70 dtm, Anna Aasa 70 dtm, Chocolate Cherry 65 dtm, Grape 60 dtm
All our varieties are indeterminate, meaning they produce fruit over several weeks, so the dtm is when the first tomatoes should be ready to eat. (Determinate varieties ripen their fruit all at once.)
Start indoors in flats or small pots in early to mid April (about 6 weeks before the last spring frost). When the seedlings have their first true leaves, separate gently and transplant into a larger pot. Every time you transplant, whether into a larger pot or into the garden, set the plant lower in the soil and bury the stem up to the next set of leaves. The plant will put out roots from the buried stem. Tomatoes love being transplanted!
Put them into the garden after all risk of frost is past. Space at least a half-metre (20”) apart. As they grow, “suckers” (new stems) will develop in the crotch between the main stem and the leaf stem. Keep the bottom two, and snip out the rest. This will give you three main stems to train on trellis strings or tie to poles. The early varieties will be fine in tomato cages or with a single stake, but the others (especially the White Currant) are large, indeterminate plants that need support and will mature fruit sooner if suckers are removed. Add compost around the plants, mulch for weed and moisture control.
Watch for ready-to-eat signs:
Amish Paste – large pointy oblong shapes, fully red
Scotia – pink-to-red, some with greenish shoulders
Anna Aasa – red, about 2-4 cm (1-1/5”) across
Chocolate Cherry – dark red/purple/brown
Grape – red, grape/pear shape
White Currant – pale yellow sugar-bombs! Smaller than the other cherry varieties. (You’ll learn as you go to pick them just before they turn darker yellow and start to split.)
LIGHT Locate your veggie garden where it receives full sun throughout the day, at least 8 hours of sunshine. Tomatoes need all that light and heat to produce abundant fruit. The greens (arugula, kale and lettuce) and herbs can handle a little shade, especially in the hottest part of the summer.
WATER Have a source of water handy to the garden. Growing veggies need about 2.5cm (1”) of water weekly – put out tuna or cat-food cans to catch rainwater – if they aren’t full at the end of a week, put the sprinkler or drip irrigation on for an hour. Hand watering is generally not enough to encourage deep roots and healthy growth. Watering is best in the morning so the plants are not wet overnight, which could encourage mildew on them.
SOIL Happy plants like soil that they can easily grow their roots through and that provides moisture and nutrients. Apply compost or aged manure to the soil at least 3 weeks before planting. No need to dig it in, the soil critters (earthworms and friends) will do that for you.
SOWING In general, sow seeds at a depth about 2-3 times their size. For tiny seeds, that means no depth at all as they need light to germinate. For starting in pots, use a seed-starting soil-less mix (available from garden centres). Wet it thoroughly in pots or trays that can drain. Sow the seeds at the appropriate depth, then set inside a plastic bag to keep the top of the soil from drying out. As soon as you see growth, take the pots out of the bag and set them under grow lights for 12-14 hours per day.
TRANSPLANTING When seedlings are growing well, they will need to be “potted up” or moved to the garden every 4 weeks or so. Some plants (tomatoes!) love this, others (squash & cukes) don’t like their roots disturbed this way, so it’s best to start those ones only 4 weeks ahead of their move to the garden. For tomatoes, use the next-size-up pot with more seed-starting soil or potting soil. Check our Facebook page for a little video about potting up tomatoes, and the Tomato description above for more detail. When transplanting to the garden, choose a cloudy or misty evening so the seedlings have a chance to recover from the move before being exposed to strong sunlight.