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From the Farm: The Keys to Starting Seeds in Spring


From the Farm with Brad Kelly

Spring Planting 

starting seedsOur spring plantings have really started to take off, and it won’t be long before we are harvesting a variety of greens, cabbages and other cruciferous delights. We managed to make it through a couple of hard frosts this past month with only a few minor casualties of some newly planted Swiss chard and kale. But, our delicious strawberries are ready for harvesting and they will be in full swing throughout the month of April.

The seed potatoes we set out a few weeks ago have emerged and it looks like we have a pretty fair stand. We ended up having to replant the Yukon Gold variety as the weather prevented us from setting them out when we needed to and they cured for a bit too long and ended up rotting in the soil. When planting potatoes, especially if you are new to the process, it is always good to go out and dig down to see if the chits have sprouted a couple weeks after planting.

The tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants that we started in the greenhouse last month are flourishing and are ready to be set out in the field once the soil dries out a bit. The process of setting out your transplants for a few days to let them “harden off” before planting in the ground is especially important with the first plantings of your warm season crops. Starting seeds for your own plants can be a big money saver and will allow you to experiment with countless varieties that you can’t find when buying transplants from a big box retailer.

The Keys to Starting Seeds

starting seeds There are a few keys to success when starting seeds on your own. Among these are correct temperature for germination, seed quality, adequate sunlight and proper soil medium. All seed types have an ideal or recommended temperature range for germination success. When getting a jump on warm season plants this usually requires placing your starting seeds trays on heat mats to maintain a certain temperature through cold nights.

Germination declines the longer you store your seeds, even if they are kept under refrigeration. You will usually experience best results when using seed that is no more than 1-1.5 years old; however, you can still get decent germination with seeds much older than this.

A good seed start mix is perhaps one of the most important aspects and there are a number of different options and opinions on this. At the farm, we use an organic “soilless” medium and then add some additional amendments to aid in plant health and vigor. A typical soilless mix will contain peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. We then add small amounts of blood meal, greensand, and rock phosphate. We complete the mixture by adding in compost or vermicompost to really give the seedlings a healthy start. If you want to get your hands dirty and save a little money this year, try starting your own seeds and enjoy some new and unique plant varieties!



Brad manages our farm operations, which include our certified naturally grown farm outside Madison and the Kelly family’s plantation in Leesburg, Ga, known as Rock House Farm. Rock House Farm produces grass-fed beef, heritage Berkshire hogs, and two varieties of heirloom corn, among other crops.