Tiny green shoots bring great joy

Take advantage of the warming temps to sow seeds indoors.

Credit: Jennifer Nickel

Even when the springtime weather seems slow to arrive, green thumbs and beginner gardeners alike can take advantage of the warming temps to sow seeds indoors to get a kick-start on their gardens.

During a recent trip to my local garden centre, I learned that germinating seeds in the comfort of my living room was a simple 1–2–3 step process. I purchased three $1.49 seed trays, a bag of sterile potting soil (specially formulated for growing seeds and cuttings) and a handful of seed packets from the rotating display.

In less than an hour, I had planted nine rows of seeds including chives, peppermint, parsley, oregano and three kinds of basil: the lemon, cinnamon and sweet green varieties. I gingerly misted the soil and covered the trays with a piece of clear plastic sheeting—a home reno leftover that has come in handy for just such occasions. The idea behind covering the trays is to form a kind of indoor greenhouse, trapping moisture and warmth in with the seeds.

In the week following, I’ve been gently lifting the sheet each afternoon, spraying down the soil where it looks dry and scrutinizing every square inch of earth for the first hint of green. At the eight-day mark, just when I was starting to think that my north-facing window wasn’t providing enough light to spark life beneath the surface, tiny green shoots started breaking their way through the soil.

What joy I felt at seeing those first tiny sprouts! A gardener’s bliss! Two days later and there is definite growth in all the rows, except for the peppermint. My cilantro is already two inches tall, and the basil is sprouting like crazy; each little seed has produced a tender shoot and two tiny leaves on top.  

Considering I’m relatively new to gardening, and this is my first attempt at starting seeds indoors, I’m extremely pleased with the results. After a few more weeks indoors I’ll be able to start “hardening off” the tiny plants with increasing exposure to the outdoor weather, getting them ready for transplant into my balcony planter boxes. I cannot wait to watch these sprouts grow into bigger plants. I can already imagine the delicious taste of the savory basil, grown from seed by my own hand making it that much sweeter.

Urban Eden authors Jennifer Nickel and Janet Gyenes tend their organic vegetable plots at the Seymour-Pacific community garden in downtown Vancouver. Jennifer has been gardening with mixed success for over 10 years, having learned only recently that vegetables are harder to kill than flowers and houseplants. Her fondest childhood memories are of warm summer evenings watering the garden with her mom, and stewing homegrown rhubarb. Finding this urban patch of soil has finally allowed Janet to put her community garden-envy to rest. She’s particularly interesting in growing heirloom vegetables, if only to say she’s cultivating some dragon’s tongue and bull’s blood.