On the lunar calendar, April 20 marks the start of “谷雨”, which means “seeding in rain”. This is a period associated with significant more precipitation and considered the best time for sowing seeds.
So here it begins, my 2023 vegetable garden! I have sown several trays of seeds at the beginning of April already.
Above is the chicken scratch I created to record what seeds I have sown. I do not use plant tags most of them break down top quicky. With this sowing map, I only need to label the trays which is easier to keep track. Speaking of trays, I use these aluminium food trays used in catering events at my work. Usually after catering events, they are rinsed off and sent to recycle bin. So all I need to do is to bring some home. They are perfect for holding 28 of the 1-inch nursery pots and for me to bottom water the seedlings. After all the seedlings are planted, I can simply recycle them just like they would have been a couple months before.
Tray 2: Eggplants (Chinese strings, Ping Tung), China Jade cucumber, onions, and some tomato seeds I got from my sister.
Besides a few vegetable garden staples, I also sowed some flowers for the first time. I want to interplant my vegetable garden this year with ornamental flowers, so I can make more bouquet for the house. I figured that it should not be too hard to raise flowers from seeds just like vegetables. For my first try, there are calendale (pacific beauty mix), zinnia (polar bear), gaura (sparkle white), cosmos (peppermint), marigold (white swan), and borage. I sowed mostly white flowers – I think they will look really good with abundance of green leaves in a vegetable garden.
Tray 1: Flowers!
I raise most of my seedlings using old nursery pots. We purchased a few seedling kits when landscaping our front yard, the sunny herb garden, and most recently, the side yard. I saved the nursery pots from these plant kits, and have been using them for seed starting. For small seeds like tomatoes, I also use seedling pods. To pot them up, all I needed to do is to bury the seedling pods in potting soil without disturbing the root at all.
Tray 3: Cucumbers, ornamental gourds, and herbs.
The tray above contains cucumbers (Suyo long cucumber, Armenian pale green), Luffa, and birdhouse gourd. These plants have sensitive root system and I found the best way of avoiding transplanting shock is to sow their seeds in as big of nursery pots as possible. The small green container with seedling pods are planted with some herb seeds such as rosemary, basil, thyme, and stevia. I used regular potting soil for my seed starting, which contains fertilizer and can feed the seedlings until they are transplanted into the ground. Comparing to using seedling mix, planting seeds directly in the potting soil spared me from having to fertilize the seedlings at all.
Tray 4: Tomatoes and peppers.
The entire fourth tray are planted with tomatoes and peppers! I got different varieties of peppers, including some really hot ones. from Pepper Joe’s and the germination was good last year. I also sowed several heirloom tomatoes I have grown last year. We enjoyed cooking with different kind of tomatoes and the sauces made with different varieties taste very flavorful. We have been using the tomato sauces we cooked in homemade pizza, pasta, chilli, and tomato soup. Cannot wait to get more this year again!
The last a few things I sowed are beetroots, ginger, and bunny tail ornamental grasses. I have sown beetroots directly in the ground, which worked very well. But this year, I would like to get some early harvest hence sowing them early. These little beetroot seedlings did not disappoint – they all came up within the first week of sowing and their colors are so vibrant already.
I also directly planted ginger in the ground before, but did not get a good harvest. Our summer days are too short gingers. To get an early start this year, I planted organic ginger pieces in the soil in Mid march. I have not seen any sprout yet – not a good sign, but I am hopeful with the help of this video from a Youtube channel called “Soil and Margaritas“. Hopefully we can unlock the secret of growing ginger this year!
The 10-day update!
Shortly after sowing the seeds, we started to see some sprouts. Below are the pictures I took on 4/12, 10 days after I sowed the seeds::
Calendale, zinnia, and gaura.
We are still experiencing freezing nights and some cold days. A shelving unit in my home office is where all the seedlings are kept. My office is at the Northeast corner of the house and does not have sufficient lighting for seedlings to grow. But I have discovered a simple way of raising seedlings without the need of adding grow light – by simply putting the seedling trays outside during the day when the weather is warm enough. Although the seedlings are only outside for 9-10 hours, versus grow lights were usually kept on for 16 hours per day, but our intense Colorado sun keeps the seedlings happy and I have never experienced any problems with leggy seedings.
One additional advantage of raising the seedling under sunlight is that I do not need to harden them off before planting. The process of hardening off seedlings can be tedious and usually requires around-the-clock care during the first week. Accidentally leaving the seedlings in bad weather can destroy these tiny plants in just a couple hours. But the seedlings grow up with natural sunlight and breeze are already conditioned to the outdoor conditions and do not need any hardening off period.
I will be sowing more seeds mostly warm weather crops – pumpkins, cantaloupes, and watermelons later this month. In a months we will be looking at a full rack of healthy seedlings for this season! I hope that you are having fun planning and planting your garden as well. Happy Spring!