While the intensive work of spring digging and planting is still at least six weeks away, there are a few things to be done in January. The most important is starting onion seeds.
You can start onion seeds indoors anytime after mid-January in Virginia, but since I only just ordered my seeds the beginning of this week, I figured I might have to wait a little while. Little did I know that Southern Exposure Seed Exchange was going to have lightning-fast delivery. My seeds arrived yesterday afternoon, to my immense delight! And of course, I couldn’t resist planting them right away.
For starting seeds indoors, I follow Steve Solomon’s advice in his excellent book Gardening When It Counts. For my potting mix, I used 1 1/4 gallons garden soil, 3/4 gallon compost, and 1/2 cup all-purpose organic fertilizer, all mixed together in a 2-gallon plastic bucket. I put the potting mix into a few pots made from old tin cans that I punched holes in the bottoms of with a hammer and nail, and I also filled a wooden flat that some clementines came in.
The individual pots I used to plant some herbs: feverfew, lovage, Thai Red roselle, poppy seed, and Holy basil. (This basil is apparently called “holy” because it’s grown outside sanctuaries in India. I decided to try it because the catalog says it has a spicy scent of clove, lemon, and cinnamon. This will be in addition to the Sweet Genovese basil I’ve had growing in the windowsill all winter long.) In the flat I sowed seeds for Australian Brown onions, a pre-1897 heirloom Spanish-type variety.
Another tip I take from Steve Solomon is not to water the seeds after they’ve been put in the soil. I simply cover with plastic wrap or put the small pots in clear plastic bags. This holds in the moisture that’s already present in the soil. Every time you water seeds, you chill them, and that slows down their germination.
Now I just have to watch carefully for the seeds to emerge, so that when they do I can set them in direct sunlight. (I also watch to make sure no mold develops because of too much moisture. If this happens, I open the bags for at least part of the day to reduce humidity.)
Let the countdown to spring begin!