Houston’s Spring is Arriving; Time to Plant Seeds

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You can plant seeds year around in Houston, but this is the time of year when gardeners begin to prepare for late spring and summer crops.

As my wife opened the front door, she and my daughters began to shout with glee. They beckoned my son and me to come quick. They had discovered that the plum tree had set flowers, and these were glowing in the morning light. The tree had already began to display these flowers, but they had not noticed till this scene unfolded before their eyes. Most of my winter vegetables have been going into bloom to prepare us for a new generation with seeds. I notice vegetable gardeners who rip the plants out of the ground when this happens; however, I like to have the seeds spread to see what will arrive in my garden again.

    With care, you can plant seeds earlier. I usually wait for signs that my winter garden is coming to an end, and then begin to plant seeds in the open spaces which I have already prepared. Both girls love going to buy seeds. Katya, three years old, picks out what she wants to eat, but recently, she has focused on the flowers that she would like to have. Sakura, one, whose name means cherry blossom, has her own choices, but I have not been able to discern any pattern other than a mad rush to grab as much as she can before I halt her progress. My teenage son has his favorites, but being a teenager, he is too cool to get excited about picking out a seed packet.

Soil preparation

I begin by cleaning out spent plants, remnants of mulch or debris, and then turning the soil. A hoe or small camping shovel are the weapons of choice. My goal is to remove all weeds, roots (pine tree roots are common invaders into my vegetable beds), and to provide air spaces, where new roots can grow and water can gather. After the initial tilling, I add my compost, lava sand, and maybe an organic fertilizer. The compost is fairly rich with organics, so I frequently leave off with the fertilizers till later. I go back and till again, to mix everything together.
    In beds where plants are growing, I am more careful with this process. Once I have harvested a row of vegetables, I go through the preparation steps for that section. With that method, my gardens always are in production.

Planting seeds

A good rule of thumb with seeds is that you plant them to the depth of their width. This means fine seeds need a very light covering while larger seeds go deeper. I have used tow methods when planting: the broadcast method; and carefully setting up rows and spacing.
    By letting the seeds fall where they may by casting them may not be the most efficient means to achieve the greatest production amount. The broadcast method is great for children though. This method also creates a more natural look to the plantings. I do try to guide my daughters to cast the seeds in a general area. After the seeds have landed, we comb our fingers through the soil to bury the seeds. Both girls run to the hose, because they know that watering is next (both enjoy dousing themselves with water). When the shoots pop up, the girls and I thin the plants down. The baby plants go into a salad or a stir fry. We leave the strongest looking shoots, but this does not always work with children in the garden.
    Setting up rows is a better way to ensure proper spacing. I eyeball distances, but you can create a planting board with notches for typical spacing measurements, with one side being the straight edge . I take whatever is available to make a straight line. I make a trench with my hand to the needed depth, and follow packet instructions to find my spacings.
    I use the broadcast method more often, since my daughters always want to help. I do not mind the lack of efficiency, because the family time is worth it. With all of these flowers, I have teachable moments. We watch the bees or other insects come by the flowers. Later, we will see the seed pods form. We will harvest seeds for next year’s crop, but we will watch as the seed pods open up to release their gift. Katya becomes so fascinated with these baby plants, and she wants to help them spread through our garden and neighborhood.

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This site came out of my desire to write about my love of gardening, but also to connect it to my knowledge derived from home inspections. That is why I tied it to the home inspection site.If you have questions, you can email them to me (frank at yourhoustonhomeinspector.com). For home inspections, call 713.781.6090.
Happy gardening, Frank


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