Starting Seedlings

For us here at Cafe Drake HRV, the seed starting cycle holds almost the same excitement as the Christmas season. Like most gardeners, we thrill at the sight of the first germination, and invest time and emotion in the struggle to keep at least a few seedlings alive from their journey as newborns to their final autumnal days as proud, tall members of the Cafe Drake HRV gardens. The process is both exhilarating and disappointing, gratifying and frustrating. 

Of course one can always just go buy a limited selection of starter plants (usually 6-week old seedlings) and we do that with about 15% of our garden, but the thrill isn't the same as raising a vegetable, flower or herb from seed to grave. For those who don't want to deal with the emotional roller coaster of starting seeds indoors, direct sow is ideal for most fast-growing crops like lettuces, Asian greens and radishes.

Well, obviously, the first step begins with starter mix and some packets of seeds. If starting seeds early indoors for transplanting in late May, we've found it best to always go with a soil-less starting mix.

Yeah it takes a little time to fill 72 starter cells with soil-less mix. And no you can't just dump it all in and shake it around. (Another lesson learned since 2013.)

Always label your seeds. You will forget.

Now, one of the saddest parts . . . once the seeds have germinated and developed their first set of leaves, they must be ruthlessly thinned out to help the strongest seedling (per cell) survive and make the most of the available light, water and soil. Thinnings of most herbs and veggies though can be used as micro-greens for garnishing salads and sandwiches.

Next Step: Light. Light. More Light. Seedlings thrive on it and gulp it down like Cafe Drake HRV and Bloody Marys at Sunday brunch.

Nasturtium seeds were "direct sowed", in this case in the container where they'll spend the entire Summer. Other nasturtiums will be direct sowed outside in the vegetable garden beds, bringing decorative color to sometimes duller veggies and providing powerful insect protection. Plus, we eat the peppery leaves and flowers in salads all through the growing season!

It's hard to say how many of these broccoli rabe seedlings will survive long enough to graduate to the vegetable plot. Fingers crossed.

When we're starting seeds we also begin reviving perennial plants struggling to survive indoors during harsh winters. Our savory is making quite a comeback!

Zinnias have traditionally done well by us here at Cafe Drake HRV.


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