"Spring Arrives by Mail" by Joan G. Hauser January 2009
Here I am, trapped in darkest January. Soon Iíll trudge into February, that extraneous icy month. Thereís only one ray of hopeópages of enticing seed catalogs promising glories to come. Whatís better than curling up in a comfortable chair in front of a roaring fire and poring over the delightful offerings for next spring? Nowís the time to order so that planting indoors can begin in late February and March. I am methodical, circling items and tabbing pages I find interesting, and then making compendious lists so I can compare prices and species.
When I finally receive my seeds, I read the directions on each packet carefully, noting germination times and temperature requirements for plants. This helps me decide what to plant when. I note seeds that need light to germinate, too. To check on the health of new seeds, one should take 10 and place them between 2 wet paper towels. If at least 6 of them germinate in a couple of dayís time, theyíre in good shape. If not, theyíd better be replaced. Thatís the right thing to do, but Iím lazy and prefer to take my packets on faith.
When itís time to plant, I use all kinds of containers as long as they have or I can create a drainage holeófrom flats to pots to plastic deli cups. One of the best purchases I made for this purpose is the Lee Valley Self-Watering Seed Starter kit containing 24 pot-sized cavities. I fill every container with a commercial potting mix or my own combination of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. After I add the seeds, I sprinkle more soil on top (unless light is required for germination) and water lightly.
I cover pots with plastic wrap to keep the moisture level constant until the seeds germinate. I do remember to label. This is essential. One year I forgot and had a garden full of odd surprises when I planted most of my seedlings in the wrong beds. I set the potted seeds under a sunny window and enjoy waiting for them to sprout. Once they have germinated, I turn the pots frequently so my tiny plants will grow straight and strong. Once they are four to six inches high and the weather outside is warm enough, I harden them off by placing pots outside during the day and bringing them in at night for a few days till they get used to the real world. My covered porch often becomes a staging area.
In the end, if all goes well, and Iíve planted all the seedlings in my garden, I feel a glow of accomplishment. Iíve whiled away my winter hours by reveling in picturesque catalogs, Iíve had the pleasure of adding a touch of green to my home, and Iíve stocked my garden with relatively inexpensive and supremely attractive plants.