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February-It's time to plant our first seeds!

On Monday, I'll start seeding in the greenhouse. For me, this always marks the end of winter and the coming farm season. The first seeds I'll plant are kale, collards, broccoli, onions, scallions, and flowers. These will go into black trays filled with soil mix. Soon after, I'll start lettuces, peppers, parsley, cabbage, and many other crops. From Monday on until the middle of summer, when it's too hot to have seedlings in a greenhouse, the seedlings will need to be watched. About twice a day, they need watering. Eventually, they might need to be moved into larger individual containers. When it's almost time for the seedling to be transplanted into the field, they will start daily trips outside to adjust to the harsher field conditions of wind, direct sun, and fluctuations in temperature. If through this careful babysitting the seedlings remain strong, the plants get a head start in the field. Strong seedlings are the foundation to organic farming because they fight off disease, drought and pests more successfully. 

I have taught about two hundred young people how to start seeds in a greenhouse, how to water them carefully, monitor the temperature, and check on their health. Whenever I teach students how to start seeds, I tell them about my first time starting seeds in trays in a greenhouse. I was working on the George Jones Farm in Oberlin, Ohio. My boss gave me a packet of seeds and a list for how many trays to fill. After a short demonstration, she left me to it. I was supposed to put one or two seeds in each cell, of each tray. I put four or five seeds in each cell of each tray! I didn't believe it was possible that each seed would become a plant. I was so nervous that something would go wrong and I would ruin the entire process. Two weeks later, I had a lot of heavily seeded trays. We thinned them out to the right numbers and my boss had a good laugh. "Seeds want to grow", she explained. "You don't have to worry that only one in five will germinate." I always tell students this story, and they often confess that they were also doubting the process. 

I'll post pictures on Instagram and Facebook when my seeds start popping out of the soil! I'm going to resist the temptation to over seed. 

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Liam Miller