Plant a seed & lift your spirits!
Today is possibly the most exciting day of the year...
Despite the relentless rain, and all the other things afoot in the world right now...
Today I planted my first seeds of the year!
This is always a thrilling activity, that lifts my spirits and warms my heart, and means that the growing season has begun. From now until the summer I will carry folded up packets of seeds in my back pockets, swap them with friends, aim for sequential planting (never that good at that somehow) and remember to plant things for eating through the winter months.
Today I have planted my night shade seeds, normally that just means tomatoes but this year a friend kindly gave me some seeds for aubergine and sweet peppers so given how easy tomatoes are to grow I thought they are definitely worth a try. Night shade plants and fruits (by fruits I mean vegetables!) have a bad rep - they contain an ingredient which in large quantities is toxic Solanine - read more about it here. Night shade veg include: tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and potatoes. Apart from potatoes and some outdoor tomato varieties the rest are really more mediterranean type veg so grow better in greenhouse or conservatories.
Germination is an awesome alchemical phenomenon. Fertilized ovaries of the plant (seeds) are thrown into soil by the natural process of distribution, or in this case by my hand. The soil is then watered, and the seed trays placed in a warm environment. With those environmental factors in place we just have to wait for nature to do its thing. With the correct balance of warmth and water the seed takes up the water and activates special proteins (enzymes) which make the seed grow a root in order to bring up more water, with that they can grow their shoots upwards and create leaves which can eat light (photosynthesise) to make sugars to feed the plant and grow more and more...
Sometimes the conditions are not right and the seeds rot or other things happen - perhaps the seeds are too old or haven't been stored correctly and they just don't germinate. So until the first little shoot appears you never know if it will work or not. Even seasoned gardeners struggle with germination sometimes. Planting seeds, tending and transplanting seedlings, planting out and caring for these plants until they produce the food that we can eat after which the plant will be cut down and composted into soil to grow next years crops is a joy to take part in each year. I am not a brilliant gardener, and only a small proportion of the seeds that I plant make it to be vegetables on my plate, but the process keeps me in contact with the seasons and food production (once you try growing your own food you won't complain about food prices again - but you might take up the plight of fairer prices for growers!).
This is not something I choose, at this time of year something else takes over and I have to plant seeds. I love watching and waiting for them to germinate and caring for them as they grow. I highly recommend it - even if you just grow one thing this year - you could try a herb to keep on your windowsill - basil is delightful, or get some seed potatoes and grow some in a sac, or try a tray of rocket. Get to your local garden centres and find out what you can grow and how to do it - Hulme Garden Centre and Bud Garden Centre are brilliant places to start and you are supporting local growers and projects too.
Find out if there is a local community garden or community allotment you can get involved with and learn alongside other people - this is a great way to start exploring the wonderful world of home-grown foods.