By Sally McCabe
PHS Associate Director, Community Education
Do you know how to read a seed pack? Did you know that just about everything you need to know before planting will be on it? Grab one and read along with me! Some of the info will include:
Days to emerge: When you will first see a plant breaking out of the ground
Seed depth: How much soil should be on top of the seed when you plant it
Seed spacing: Ideally, how far apart they should be (their social distancing)
Days to maturity: How long it takes to have a harvestable product
Sowing instructions: The directions for planting and special tips and tricks
Some packets also have a picture of what the baby plant will look like, so you can tell it apart from the weeds. ALL packets are required to have a sell-by date or at least a “packed for 20__” date. Newer seeds are best, but some last many years if taken care of (not left loose in your damp basement, or in the trunk of your car).
Most of us have packets or half-packets of seeds leftover from last year (or several years)! Here’s a simple test to see if they’re still good: Spread out 10 seeds on a moist (not wet) paper towel and roll it into the shape of a tube. Stuff that in a plastic bag and put the bag in a warm (not hot) place out of the sun. Unroll after a week and see if there’s any action. If not, give it a few more days. If more than half the seeds have sprouted, you can get away with using them. If less, try to find newer seeds. Seed companies are extremely busy with online orders right now and want to keep their employees safe, so please be patient if their shipping and handling takes a while!
What should we be planting now? Things that don’t care about cool night temperatures, which keep the soil from warming up, including greens, like mustards, lettuce, spinach, arugula, and kale. Root crops, like carrots, turnips, beets, radishes, and rutabaga. Peas. and transplants or roots, like onion sets, potatoes, leeks, onion plants, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, celery, herbs like cilantro and mint (but not basil).
Too soon! Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, any of the squash or melons, and sweet potato.