Saturday, February 14, 2015

What do my seedlings look like

when they come up? Are they weeds or are they the seeds I planted? It all looks the same... lots of little green things poking up outta the dirt.
Always mark your pots or rows with any kind of marker.... from a popsicle stick to a recycled plastic plant marker, or a map you've drawn of the garden... anything to keep it straight, because even the best memory can fade after a few weeks....
An experienced eye can tell the difference, of course, but if you are new to gardening, or have not planted something for a long time, I'm putting together a series of garden posts that can be your visual guide, to see a few of the most popular and some strange plants, from the first cotyledon to the real leaves, and then the flowers.

From my many decades of gardening, from running a nursery, years of working as a garden designer and from the mistakes I've made, we can see the ups and downs. oh boy.

To go from seed packet, a pot of potting soil or well-prepared garden soil to this....
is an exciting roller coaster.......Anticipation. Thrills. Ups and Downs. Happiness and Disapointment. Just like life.

All these pictures are from my own gardens over the years.
In late winter and early spring these are a few of the sprouts you might see.

If you planted some garlic sections last fall, the little sprouts look a lot like grass. Burly burly grass. You can gently caress the sprouts and smell, and see if it smells like garlic. If it does, it's probably garlic. 

The planting instructions are on the back of the packet, and a search for trusted sources like Burpee or Rodale will teach you all the basics.

Spinach seedlings have their first leaves, the cotyledons, shaped like little spears, and the true leaves, like so many plants are different. The spinach leaves are rather heart-shaped, but longer.

Carrot seedlings look first like long skinny leaves, and not at all like a carrot leaf. The lovely carrot leaf is very lacy and fern-like. They are worth growing just for the leaves! Carrots come in a crazy variety of forms and colors. There is a lot more in the carrot world than just long and orange.

Pak Choi, or bok Choy, is that delicious Chinese Mustard in so many Chinese dishes. These are so easy to grow... so I encourage you to try it. The plants get quite large, so be sure to leave them room.
The seedlings resemble so many others in the mustard/kale/beet/turnip/broccoli family..... the first cotyledons are tiny little hearts.

Lettuce eat, let us!  so easy to grow, even in half shade/sun. They do like water and a fairly rich soil. But so easy, you just gotta try it.

The first leaves are little ovals, and if you plant colored lettuce, the first seedlings are colored too! Then the second leaves really do reveal themselves as the tiny versions of the variety they might be. Red curly, butter lettuce, romaine... and all the others.

Later, after all the frosts have ended, it will be time to plant sunflowers!
Easy. Easy. Easy. Perfect for kids to introduce them to gardening. The seeds are big, and are nearly foolproof. Just bait for slugs and snails.
The seedling pops out with a cap of the seed still attached, but after 2 or 3 days it jumps out and up so fast and the big meaty oblong leaves spread out. After that, the real leaves are large hearts, and the plant will jump up and reward the laziest and the beginner garden, and the old hands, too!

Once again, with broccoli, the first seedling leaves are tiny little hearts. Watch out for slugs and snails and bait accordingly. The secondary leaves are long and curvy, scalloped and ruffly, like oak leaves, and tend to be long and oval shaped.

The most rewarding, is quite possibly, radishes! yes! you can go from seed to radish in about 4 - 5 weeks...and they too come in many colors and shapes. The seedlings start as little hearts, and then the leaves resemble oak leaves, like broccoli too. But radish leaves have little bumps and are kinda hairy-looking. A bit strange.