A Gardener’s Diary: Start your seeds indoors now

February/March is the time of year to start germinating seeds indoors for their viability.

This is the time when I start germinating seeds for their viability. As always, I run into the problem of what to do with all the seeds once they have germinated. So this year again I have seeds already growing on the window sill and I will have to put them under the fluorescent lights or they will get too leggy just in the window. The days are getting longer but for the seeds, they need more daylight.

I germinate them inside damp shop towels on foam trays and inserted in plastic bags. The arugula had roots within 24 hours. The lettuce seeds were already in soil with their little roots showing within three days. Even carrots only took three days before some roots were visible. From the 13 varieties of seeds I germinated, only the parsley seeds are still dormant.

I have peas already 30 centimetres tall. I had to make them a trellis with tomato cages and I hope that spring is just around the corner. Sometimes I am sure that Tom thinks I am crazy but he won’t say it out loud because I am the one that does the cooking. I started harvesting the parsnips while the ground is soft enough. They were delicious although some of them looked like something from another planet with many legs.

Sometimes seeds won’t germinate until they have a cold treatment which is called stratification. This varies with seeds. To stratify seeds in the refrigerator, mix the seeds with slightly moistened sand, peat moss or sphagnum moss. They should be stored in plastic bags and kept in the fridge until you see some of them starting to grow. Then they can be potted. Columbines are some of the plants that seeds will need the cold treatment in order to germinate.

Scarification means scratching or cracking the hard outer coat of a seed to help it germinate. Some seeds, like morning glories, have outer shells that are extremely hard and don’t allow water through. This is one way a seed stays dormant in the fall and winter, until growing conditions improve. With my method of germinating them in a damp shop towel, I never had to scratch the shells. They can also be soaked in water overnight. Animals can also scarify seed by eating the hard seeds and digesting them. That is how I got all my starts of Saskatoon shrubs in the yard because I never planted any seeds myself. You can rub the seeds with sandpaper or a file but you have to be careful to not damage the seeds.

It is time to prune the grape vines before the mild weather comes in and the sap starts running. I always experience a bit of bleeding but the vines should be fine. A few shrubs got hit by the heavy snow and I have to take care of a few branches that got broken. The tulips are up and the first crocuses are blooming. The Christmas rose made it just fine and is sending new growth already. We had a fantastic weekend and everything is drying well. Even the weeds are coming out easily with the soft ground. Somehow the birds must really think that spring is here as they are already visiting the birdhouses. Spring cleanup has been done in all of them and they are ready for a new season. The more birds you have, the least insects on your plants and a better harvest.

Don’t forget the Enderby Seed Exchange on March 7. The venue has been changed to M.V. Beattie elementary school, 1408 Sicamous Rd.

For more information: 250-558-4556.

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in the North Okanagan and a member of the Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. She writes about gardening every other Wednesday.