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Next up: Carrots and Leeks

March 6, 2009

I think I finally have my seed-starting project plan worked out. Whew … a relief. With the basils happily underway — 61 happy, healthy seedlings up and stretching for the light to date — carrots and leeks are up next.

Workable Spring soil is only 4-5 weeks away, so, with the seed project plan finished, I can get to work on the plan for the early crops: carrots, radishes, arugula, lettuce, edamame. Leeks also must go in early — not because they’ll be harvested in late Spring like the other crops, but because they require a good 6 to 7 months in the ground to mature.

While I’m working on the plan, I’ll get the carrots and leeks going indoors. Radishes, arugula, lettuce (and other greens) are easily sowed and germinated directly in the cool ground. I’m experimenting with edamame this year — I’ll be buying those as transplants.

The gardeners among you might be wondering why the heck I’m starting carrots indoors, as all advice exists to the contrary. The short answer is that I love the look of carrot greens, and they will be playing a big role in my vegetation landscaping. I therefore need to be able to place them according to a carefully laid-out plan, not scattered willy-nilly in a plot with a mixture of sand.

Fortunately, I thought ahead last year by experimenting with carrot seed sowing and transplants. It was a success, and I was pleased with the entire process, which I’m repeating this year.

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It’s amazing how something so big — a leek stalk — can come from something so small. 12 leek seeds (3 shown above, left) go into Jiffy-7 peat pellets (above, right). Next winter’s soups will be soooo yummy.
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I used Jiffy strips in my carrot transplant experiments last fall rather than Jiffy pellets. I like the idea — probably completely nonsensical — of the carrots having walls underground for a time. Since the arrangement worked so well, I didn’t want to mess with success. Jiffy sells a tray that accommodates five 10-celled strips. Filling the cells was a jiff (ahem) with a bag of seed starting soil. Just pour it on and smooth it out. Then my kitty Georgie inspects the results. Well, less “inspect” than sniff and paw and fling (she loves to dig).
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Gardeners frequently complain about carrot seeds (above, left), but, at this point, between the teeny basil seeds and the tiny leek seeds, I’m about cross-eyed. So, to work with seeds I can actually pinch between my stubby fingers is a relief. 50 carrot seeds go in the oversized tray: 20 Sweet Treats, 10 Purple Dragons (lavender-tipped toothpicks above), 20 Danvers.
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There’s little Red, on the left. Isn’t he just beautiful? And two sweet basil seedlings, sharing a pellet, vogue for the camera. I love to run my hand gently over the seedlings in this tray – the most delectable scents of mixed basils rise up to tickle my nose.

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