Cam Flaherty here. It’s still cold in New England. But we’re not just acting on faith that temperatures WILL rise and summer will come. And when it does, don’t you want to be ready with some of your own seedlings? For your own leeks and onions, in the allium family, now is the time to get those seedlings started.
- Locate some good organic seed and some seed-starting mix (different from potting soil).
- Find a seed-starting flat. You can also use a mushroom box or cut off a milk carton, poking holes in the bottom.
- Find a tray or pan to put underneath that doesn’t leak.
- Fill the containers most of the way with seed-starting mix.
- Sprinkle with a bit of water so it isn’t too dry.
- Place one or two seeds in each cell or at the recommended distance. Alium seeds are tiny, so don’t worry if you put a few in each location. You can always thin them later.
- Sprinkle a little more mix on the top. The tinier the seed, the more shallowly you should plant it.
- Fill the tray underneath with warm water. It will wick up into the containers.
- Cover the top with clear plastic. A cut-open old bag is fine.
- Put the flat in a warm, sunny spot or under grow lights. On a kitchen counter beneath under-counter lights works well, too.
- Keep watering from below to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out until the seeds sprout.
- After they sprout, remove the plastic and make sure the soil is only a few inches under your lights. You can water them gently from the top from now on, being sure to water only when the soil is dry.
- As the plants grow, move them down.
- Once the weather is milder, move them outside to a sheltered sunny spot. Alliums are cold tolerant, so they can go out before the last frost.
- After you can work the ground, plant them according to the instructions on the seed packet. And look forward to some delicious additions to your late summer cooking!
I’ll answer questions all day long, so don’t hold back. And if you’re not inclined to start your own seeds, sign up for a share at my Attic Hill Farm!
Edith Maxwell writes the Local Foods mystery series from Kensington Publishing, in which geek-turned-organic farmer Cam Flaherty grows produce even in the winter for members of the Locavore club, but also has to solve more than one case of locally sourced murder.