SOWING THE SEED





Having now our frames provided and our soil composed properly and good
strong tested seed on hand, we are prepared to go about the business of
growing our plants with a practical certainty of success--a much more
comfortable feeling than if, because something or other had been but
half done, we must anxiously await results and the chances of having
the work we had put into the thing go, after all, for nothing.
The seed may be sown either directly in the soil or in "flats." Flats
are made as follows: Get from your grocer a number of cracker boxes,
with the tops. Saw the boxes lengthwise into sections, a few two inches
deep and the rest three. One box will make four or five such sections,
for two of which bottoms will be furnished by the bottom and top of the
original box. Another box of the same size, knocked apart, will furnish
six bottoms more to use for the sections cut from the middle of the
box. The bottoms of all, if tight, should have, say, five three-
quarter-inch holes bored in them to allow any surplus water to drain
off from the soil. The shallow flats may be used for starting the seed
and the three-inch ones for transplanting. Where sowing but a small
quantity of each variety of seed, the flats will be found much more
convenient than sowing directly in the soil--and in the case of their
use, of course, the soil on top of the manure need be but two or three
inches deep and not especially prepared.
Where the seed is to go directly into the frames, the soil described
above is, of course, used. But when in flats, to be again transplanted,
the soil for the first sowing will be better for having no manure in
it, the idea being to get the hardest, stockiest growth possible. Soil
for the flats in which the seeds are to be planted should be, if
possible, one part sod, one part chip dirt or leaf mould, and one part
sand.
The usual way of handling the seed flats is to fill each about one-
third full of rough material--screenings, small cinders or something
similar--and then fill the box with the prepared earth, which should
first be finely sifted. This, after the seeds are sown, should be
copiously watered--with a fine rose spray, or if one has not such,
through a folded bag to prevent the washing of the soil.
Here is another way which I have used recently and, so far, with one
hundred per cent, certainty of results. Last fall, when every bit of
soil about my place was ash dry, and I had occasion to start
immediately some seeds that were late in reaching me, my necessity
mothered the following invention, an adaptation of the principle of
sub-irrigation. To have filled the flats in the ordinary way would not
have done, as it would have been impossible ever to wet the soil
through without making a solid mud cake of it, in which seeds would
have stood about as good a chance of doing anything as though not
watered at all. I filled the flats one-third full of sphagnum moss,
which was soaked, then to within half an inch of the top with soil,
which was likewise soaked, and did not look particularly inviting. The
flats were then filled level-full of the dust-dry soil, planted, and
put in partial shade. Within half a day the surface soil had come to
just the right degree of moisture, soaked up from below, and there was
in a few days more a perfect stand of seedlings. I have used this
method in starting all my seedlings this spring--some forty thousand,
so far--only using soil screenings, mostly small pieces of decayed sod,
in place of the moss and giving a very light watering in the surface to
make it compact and to swell the seed at once. Two such flats are shown
[ED., unable to recreate in typed format], just ready to transplant.
The seedlings illustrated in the upper flat had received just two
waterings since being planted.
Where several hundred or more plants of each variety are wanted, sow
the seed broadcast as evenly as possible and fairly thick--one ounce of
cabbage, for instance, to three to five 13 x 19 inch flats. If but a
few dozen, or a hundred, are wanted, sow in rows two or three inches
apart, being careful to label each correctly. Before sowing, the soil
should be pressed firmly into the corners of the flats and leveled off
perfectly smooth with a piece of board or shingle. Press the seed
evenly into the soil with a flat piece of board, cover it lightly, one-
eighth to one-quarter inch, with sifted soil, press down barely enough
to make smooth, and water with a very fine spray, or through burlap.
For the next two days the flats can go on a pretty hot surface, if one
is available, such as hot water or steam pipes, or top of a boiler, but
if these are not convenient, directly into the frame, where the
temperature should be kept as near as possible to that indicated in the
following table.
In from two to twelve days, according to temperature and variety, the
little seedlings will begin to appear. In case the soil has not been
made quite friable enough, they will sometimes "raise the roof" instead
of breaking through. If so, see that the surface is broken up at once,
with the fingers and a careful watering, as otherwise many of the
little plants may become bent and lanky in a very short time.
From now on until they are ready to transplant, a period of some three
or four weeks, is the time when they will most readily be injured by
neglect. There are things you will have to look out for, and your
attention must be regular to the matters of temperature, ventilation
and moisture.





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