To Direct Sow or Not to Sow

Paraphrasing a famous soliloquy, to direct sow or not to direct sow, that is the question. Some plants require it, and others are happy with a plush start before being flung out into the outdoor world (gently, of course). Knowing which plants need what is our job as gardeners.

Our vegetable garden is a mix of both, direct sow seeds and others we begin indoors. Let’s dig in to the what and why of each.

Indoor Seed Starts

As I wrote about in Victory Garden 2020, veggies like tomatoes, peppers and eggplants crave a little extra time to grow, but they aren’t fond of cold weather. If you plant them outside too early, they will stay stunted with scant productivity for the full summer, no matter how hot it gets.

Because they want warmer soil to germinate and need the heat to develop their first true leaves, we begin those inside. Here’s what the indoor starts look like now. For perspective in the video, the basils to the far left and the peppers to the far right have been in their pots for over three weeks.

How our seed starts grow…

Meanwhile, the wildly untamed and getting too big for their britches zucchinis and squashes have been in for two weeks. If you want a fun vegetable to plant with your kids for instant fascination, pick a summer squash!

Outdoor Direct Sowing

On Sunday, we did a final weeding of the garden before sowing other seeds directly. It doesn’t yet look much different than it did a week ago, other than the soil looks pristine. But wait a week or two…

Direct sowing isn’t always terribly exciting to watch as a step by step process. Read the package to determine how deeply the seeds should be planted, make a little trench with your fingers, and tap-tap-tap the seeds into the trench S-L-O-W-L-Y. Spread them out so you aren’t piling up a bunch of plants in one place and leaving big gaps in others. Pat in the soil gently so you don’t bury them too deep, water, and wait.

As these seeds sprout, we’ll thin them to the recommended (minus a little) distance apart. We keep them a little closer together to begin with because we pick little ones early on to make more space, roasting those whole as a side with dinner. Our choices favor root vegetables, like carrots, turnips, beets, and parsnips.

Perennial Perennials

All the previous plants I mentioned are annuals, as in, you reseed them every year; they don’t overwinter. But we like herbs and other veg varieties that return each year, aka perennials. These we put in pots.

Why pots? Because we tried to keep them in the soil, and they overtook the yard. Seriously, chives are still showing up 20 feet from where we first grew them, oregano ran on shoots underground to sprout in the middle of similarly overgrowing mint and run-amuck mint colors the lawn. And those runners all go very deep!

Perennial pots

The herb pots don’t look like much now because the plants are only now coming out of winter hibernation. We’ll check back on them next month and you’ll see.

How does our garden grow? Like crazy!

Next up, fruit trees and fruit vines!

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