The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Making sure fall vegetable seeds sprout

Brussels sprout seedlingEven though winter feels very far away, the dog days are the right time to start your fall garden.  Last year, I had a lot of trouble getting seeds to germinate in the hot, dry weather, so this year I opted to start broccoli, cabbage, and (a new experiment this year) brussels sprouts inside.

Sure enough, it was so hot that I couldn't even get the first set of seeds to germinate inside the trailer.  So I moved the flats to the porch and refilled them with stump dirt from my favorite tree (the output of which I save for special occasions).  The result was cute little seedlings popping up within a few days.

If I'd only known that our weather was going to have a mood swing, I could have direct-seeded.  Recently, I've learned that summer weather (at least in our neck of the woods) tends to get stuck in feedback loops, which explains why some summers are distressingly cool and wet while others are just as distressingly hot and dry.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a several degree difference in temperature (as measured by my bare feet) between the lush clover growing where our sink graywater spills out and the parched clover just fifteen feet away.  My feet were picking up on the same factor that influences our summer weather --- dry soil makes the air hotter while wet soil makes the air cooler.  Maybe that's why once the rains finally came, they kept on coming all week long?

Muddy gardenerI don't mind a few more days of rain if it means the fall garden will get off to a good start.  Carrot seedlings (planted at the beginning of July) are already up and I can just feel the snap pea seeds I set out Thursday plumping up in the wet earth.  Once those sprout, I've put in an order for more hot, dry weather to keep the tomatoes and cucurbits happy.

In the meantime, the photo above shows what I look like when I squelch in from the garden.  Can you tell I'm soaked from mid-thigh down and filthy from head to toe?  Pure bliss....

Our chicken waterer keeps the flock well hydrated during scorching summer days.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Anna, not sure if you have mentioned it before. For the readers that are still buying their eggs from the grocery store, the Styrofoam egg cartons have worked wonders for me doing seed sprouting. I tend to use the white Styrofoam packages, with a bit of potting soil and some water, I have not had issues sprouting in the winter nor in the summer. I guess that once it's closed it has it's ouw mini micro climate in there. I check for humidity every couple of days, but it does not take long for seed to wake up in there.
Comment by VoteforPedro Fri Jul 13 10:17:55 2012
VoteforPedro --- Good tip! I'll bet I might have even had better luck in a styrofoam egg carton when it was so hot, because presumably the styrofoam would give a bit of insulation.
Comment by anna Fri Jul 13 16:17:12 2012

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