I like seeds. I think seeds are amazing, mysterious, tiny, and powerful. They hold life in them in a way that most of us truly do not understand. As a child I remember planting, waiting, and literally watching the small shoots shoot up out of the garden soil as if by miracle.
Alas, many of our vegetables come from seeds. So let’s unlock that mystery a little bit. Each seed contains a tiny plant waiting for the right conditions to germinate, or start to grow. A tiny baby plant, full of potential and power, even leaves and stems.
What’s packed in seeds?
These tiny power plant packed seeds wait to germinate until three needs are met: water (moisture), correct temperature (warmth), and a good setting (a place, like our gardens or trays). During its early stages of growth, the seedling relies upon the food supplies stored within the seed until it is large enough for its own leaves to begin making energy through photosynthesis. The seedling’s roots push down into the soil to anchor the new plant and to absorb water, energy, and minerals from the soil. Its stem pushes up its tender newly strengthened leaves toward the life giving light.
This stage ends when a shoot emerges from the soil. But the plant is not done growing. It’s just started. Plants need water, warmth, excellent soil, and light to continue to grow and then produce.
In Houston, we usually are able to pre-start seeds outdoors in our vegetable garden. One big exception is tomatoes; Houstonians need to start tomato seeds around too-cold-for-tomatoes New Year’s Day. So, tomatoes must be started indoors for warmth’s sake. Many commercial potting mixes are appropriate for this use but inappropriate for growing the plant even a few weeks after germination. I like to use a “homemade” soil. I’ve used equal parts compost, good garden soil (from the garden) and aged ground leaf waste gathered from nearby lawns. This is an airy mixture that allows moisture to be maintained and roots to grow quickly.
How to properly plan seeds
Next, to plant your seeds. Place them on the damp soil surface; it is encouraged to water your soil medium before you plant. Regarding depth, push your seeds no deeper than one-fourth inch for tiny seeds and half inch for larger ones. It is very easy to plant a seed to deep, so be aware. Then scatter a thin covering of soil over the seeds or simply press in those that need sunlight to germinate. Gently firm the seeds and soil in place. Then, before you move forward, label your work with the variety name and planting date.
I suggest we pause after planting to think about those near miracles you’ve seeded: those shims, flecks, grains, bits and globes. No matter how tiny, each seed is a living entity complete with genetic directions for its development. Seeds “breathe” — that is, they take in oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. Seeds are imagined and inclined to grow; we just help them along.