Crofting – Seed Starting

Tomorrow's project

We have such a short growing season here that many plants must be started indoors. We have both late spring and early autumn frost, so the garden needs a good headstart in order to produce. I have collected all kinds of recyclable growing containers, but with both of us feeling ill and tired, I gave us a bit of a break by picking up a few premade planting items. The trays have coir pots in them – coconut fibre – replacing the previously common peat pots. I bought vermiculite and soil rather than peat moss, which is not really available anymore. And a good thing – in my view. Peat bogs are part of our ecosystem here in New Brunswick and an important factor in wildlife habitat and water renewal. We really don’t need to be cutting them up as we have a limited supply! That may be hard on the peat producers, but better all round for our environment. Peat does renew itself eventually, but in our climate it takes a long time. The coconut fibre would just go to waste after the processing of the fruit, so it is of great benefit to find a good, biodegradable use for it. I realize that coconut plantations are also a problem, but since these are already harvested, I guess I will settle for it as the lesser of evils.

Our kitchen has two big west-facing windows and is the warmest room in the house. The tables I salvaged to use for the seedlings are right over heat ducts. I guess I won’t need heated mats under them. Once they have their little heads out of the soil, I will get grow lights since our days are still so short. I was coveting some lovely grow stands from Vesey’s, the venerable Prince Edward Island nursery, but they were a bit spendy for our budget. I found an old typing table out in the shed, and there was an ancient and battered handmade table in the basement which just seemed to want to be useful again. The carpenters had used it as workbench. If I need an additional table, there are a couple of old potato barrels and some boards. It all looks very rustic and is rather pleasing, especially because it costs so much less than the elegant light table!

So I am sorting out and grouping which seeds need to be started first – and I don’t anticipate that anything tender can go in the ground until the end of May! We will get the field plowed and manured, and the hardy seeds in before that, but I am mindful that one year, I lost half my seed starts to a bottlefed lamb who found she could pull the plant pots off the table, and then the rest in a cold frame when we had a frost in June. I lived farther north than I do now, and although the Bay of Chaleur is supposed to be “warm” we still had some really “cold” nights that spring!

there is something so satisfying and primal in getting some seeds into some dirt. Horticulture has been an art for at least 10,000 years. I grew up in a gardening family, and my parents were always excited every year about what would go in the garden, what new things to try, when to start seedlings for transplanting. My father did build an big grow table in the basement, with suspended lights over it. Before that, the seedlings were in the dining room on improvised tables. We were a big family, without a lot of money coming in, and the garden was necessary for our good nutrition. Both sets of grandparents had gardens, tended diligently and with great love. Canning was a never-forgotten practice in my family, and I am grateful that I grew up with that experience.