Written by Karma Glos of Kingbird Farm
Planting seeds is an act of magic.
Tiny, hard, protective grains of potential life await their fate in paper envelopes. The envelopes, tucked in boxes, are bunched with rubber bands and organized according to my fickle human planting schedule. Little stories and germination suggestions on these seed packets suggest a short planting window related to my last frost date. But, as a small “commercial” grower of transplants meant for the gardens and greenhouses of my customers, I must start seeds far ahead of packet suggestions.
Even in my effort to get plants ready for spring sales and eager May gardeners, I am actually a late starter. While I usually start most slow-growing or difficult-to-germinate varieties the first week of February – this is months later than many other growers. It’s a tricky balance for me between: the desires of gardeners to have large, even flowering transplants, and efforts to conserve energy. By waiting until the last minute to heat the greenhouse I save money.
So for me, the magic starts in February. Plant life is burst forth as I empty the envelopes and coax the seedlings out with warmth, moisture, and light. The seeds I germinate come from three sources: organic vegetable and herb seeds from Northeast seed companies, organic seeds collected here on the farm, and a variety of rare seeds collected by plant lovers through the North American Rock Garden Society and The Cactus and Succulent Society of America. The production of most conventional seed is controlled by very large, multi-national corporations and does not reflect my belief in a sustainable, organic agricultural system. I am dedicated to supporting organic seed growers since every input into our system matters, from the tiniest seed to the pots we plant them in.
I use certified organic potting mix, compostable pots, wooden labels and organically-approved pest controls. Some of these methods, like handwriting all my wooden pot labels, are time-consuming and more expensive for me, but uphold my vision of sustainable plant production. This means I will always be a small, hands-on producer. I will always grow small numbers of interesting plants and hand each one to the customer myself, and I am okay with that. I believe that numerous small producers, all growing in their own unique way, lead to a more resilient and sustainable horticulture. The magic begins in a greenhouse in February, but continues in the gardens all across our community. To me: Small gardeners supporting small growers is a big deal.