Planting the Seeds of Spring

Getting itchy to get your hands dirty? Some Providence farmers give you some pointers on how to make potting soil.

This year’s mild winter and occasional fifty-degree days have me thinking about plants. I’m pretty new to gardening, but there’s something so great about planting something small and watching it grow into something to savor.

Each plant has a personality and the experts warn about planting too soon. But you can get started with seeds, working back from their recommended planting times. Fay Strongin, Tess and Laura Brown-Lavoie, who started Sidewalk Ends Farm in a vacant lot on the west end of Providence last year, recently gave some tips during a workshop at Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket. They now sell their vegetables at the Armory Park Farmers Market and run a small CSA.

To make potting soil, they recommend a mix of one part peat moss, to one part vermiculite, to one-half compost. No idea what those are? Check out their detailed explanation:

Once you've got the potting soil, you can seed. They recommend filling plant cell trays with sifted potting soil. Then in each cell, make a thumbprint. You should then plant the seed at a depth twice its size. The seeds will need the heat of growbox, or you can place them near another source or warmth, like a radiator. They also recommend spritzing the surface of the soil with water to keep the seeds damp.

Once the seeds germinate, they'll need twelve to sixteen hours of sun. And the farmers recommend bottom watering, so the roots stay wet. Eventually, you will transfer the healthiest seedlings to bigger containers or outside.

Need more information? Other resources they recommend are Rodale's Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening and John Jeavons's How to Grow More Vegetables.