Plan your seed sowing in February
February may be slightly early to directly seed vegetables, annual, and perennials in the garden. We can still expect nighttime temperatures in the 30s into March – too chilly for nearly all seedlings. But it’s not too early to put a seed-sowing calendar in place and plan the season that should start next month.
Here are some seed and seed-sowing tips:
Choosing seedChoose seed from seed companies that are long on information; look for seed packets or seed catalogs that tell you what it takes to start seeds and grow plants: germination temperature and days to germination, days to maturity, when to start the seed, water needs, temperature and weather tolerance, disease resistance, and, importantly, a good description of the vegetable at harvest including flavor. Also, find out if the crop variety is a hybrid or open-pollinated; open-pollinated means you can save seed from mature plants and grow exactly the same crop again next year.
About seed companiesSeed growers can be national or regional. Regional seed companies grow their seed in the same part of the country that they sell their seed. Choosing seed from a seed company in California or Northern California means the plants will easily adapt to your garden and that you will get varieties that are regional favorites. National seed companies may grow seed in many different parts of the country; that usually means they sell seed varieties that are easily grown in any part of the country.
How much seedWhen you buy seed, consider how much of a crop you plan to grow over the course of the season. A seed packet of carrots with a lot of seed will probably get planted in one season, but a seed packet of squash need not have a lot of seed – you will likely plant only a few squash of each variety each season.
Seeds to start indoors in spring (you can start now in the Sonoma Valley)
Vegetables: broccoli, eggplant, gourds, peppers, tomatillos, tomatoes.
Herbs: basil, fennel, catmint, lavender, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme.
Flowers: amaranth, asclepias, buddleia, calendula, carnations, columbine, delphinium, Echinacea, feverfew, foxglove, ornamental grasses, globe amaranth, heliotrope, hollyhocks, nicotiana, pansies, penstemon, phlox, portulaca, rose, salpiglossis, scabiosa, snapdragons, stock, zinnias.
Seeds to plant directly in garden in early spring (best bet, late March or April in the Sonoma Valley)
Vegetables: beets, broccoli, broccoli raab, carrots, chard, bulbing fennel, kale, leeks, lettuce, mâche, scallions, pak choi, peas, radishes, salad greens, stir fry greens, spinach.
Herbs: arugula, borage, chamomile, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, garlic chives, parsley, watercress.
Flowers: agrostemma, alyssum, bells of Ireland, bishop’s lace, calendula, clarkia, cornflowers, cerinthe, delphinium, forget-me-nots, larkspur, nigella, poppies, rehmannia, stock, sweet peas.
Seeds to plant directly in garden in early summer (once nights are above 50-55°F – May and June in the Sonoma Valley)
Vegetables: beans, edamame soybeans, beets, carrots, chard, corn, cucumbers, gourds, melons, onions, pak choi, pumpkins, salad greens, stir fry greens, scallions, summer squash, watermelons, winter squash, zucchini.
Herbs: arugula, basil, borage, cat grass, cilantro, dill, sage, thyme.
Flowers: bells of Ireland, cleome, cosmos, cardinal climber, cypress vine, four o’clocks, hyacinth bean vine, love lies bleeding, marigolds, mina lobata, moonflowers, morning glories, nasturtiums, nicotiana, phlox, portulaca, salvia, scabiosa, scarlet runner beans, sunflowers, tithonia, zinnias.
Seeds to plant directly in garden mid-summer to early fall
Vegetables: beets, broccoli, broccoli raab, carrots, chard, bulbing fennel, kale, leeks, lettuce, mâche, pak choi, peas, radishes, salad greens, stir fry greens, scallions, spinach.
Herbs: arugula, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, garlic chives, parsley, watercress.
Flowers: agrostemma, alyssum, bishop’s lace, calendula, cerinthe, clarkia, cornflowers, forget-me-nots, foxglove, larkspur, nigella, pansies, poppies, snapdragons, stock, sweet peas.
Steve Albert is the author of The Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide available at Amazon.com. He teaches in the landscape design program at the U.C. Berkeley Extension. He lives in Oakmont.
For more growing tips from Steve visit his website Harvesttotable.com. His annual library series talks are scheduled for February 4 at Rincon Valley library, March 25 at Petaluma library, and May 6 at Healdsburg library. All talks begin at 10:30 a.m.