Since we are solidly out of the Persephone Period, I’m seeing people everywhere from backyard gardeners to local farms starting their seeds and I am JEALOUS. Since we’re in a temporary spot right now and don’t have any garden space of our own, I thought sharing some tips on seed starting in small places would make me feel better.
Also, I’m going to offer to start seeds for the upstairs neighbours to plant in their garden, and so with any luck will be getting some seeds into some dirt in this new (slightly larger) small place. I’m very excited to buy some Cowichan-grown seed from the Cowichan Green Community seed farm.
Here are the most useful things we’ve learned in the last six or seven years of having much outdoor space but basically zero extra indoor space (also a cat who like to chomp on things that don’t even taste good just to spite us) in the hopes that I may garden vicariously through you.
Window sills are your friends
The space in our Vancouver apartment was small but we had a couple of wider-than-average windowsills. One happened to be in the shower, which actually worked out quite well, getting a decent amount of light and some extra moisture from the hot water.
The photo below is of the wide sill on the landing in the house. They were out of the way and the neighbours never seemed to mind.
And don’t be afraid to move things around as needed. Observe where in your place gets the best light at different times of day and move things around. Turn plants 180 degrees to keep them from getting too bent over stretching toward the light.
Perennials are, too
Basically anything that doesn’t need to be started indoors every single year is a win, and some of the most beautiful plants I know are perennials. Tulips, anemones, poppies, calendula.
Nothing fills out a garden with colour like calendula returning year after year. And the seeds are so easy to save and spread that you can put them wherever you like and package them up to gift to friends.
And since I never manage to find every potato (nevermind the ones I accidentally slice in half when digging them), they’re practically perennials, too.
Direct sow whenever possible
Some plants are tough to grow if you can’t start them indoors and don’t have a greenhouse, especially in Zone 8 where it doesn’t get super hot (my beloved tomatoes for instance) but there are plenty that can tolerate being planted directly in the soil and some that even prefer it. Now is the time to start getting peas in the ground since they prefer cool weather and can be planted as early as February. (Carissa of Seed and Nourish planting the peas below during her brand shoot last year.)
Beans like the soil to be a little warmer, but will happily sprout directly in the garden. Poppies dislike being transplanted and will die in protest, so directly into the garden they go.
Since poppy blooms leave dry pods full of seeds behind after they fall, it’s very pleasing to rattle the pods in all the spots you want to have poppies next year.
What are you starting for your garden? Anything new this year? Perennial (get it?? sorry) favourites? Please feel free to send me photos of your plant babies and any small-space tips you have!