I hadn't been in that room of the basement since we took the FEMA guy there to inspect flood damage from the bad storm back in July 2010. We had over a foot of seepage water before the storm finished but I don't feel right complaining about it since many of my friend's basements were flooded with sewage water. Three feet in one case, cat liter boxes floating along the top like small house boats. One person in the community described what it was like to watch feces floating amongst her children's toys. We were lucky.
My seed starting materials are confined to a corner back room of the basement where I have the seed shelf with lights and a solidly built albeit too shallow work table constructed and bolted down by some former owner. The rest of the room is storage space. A mattress set shoved against the wall. A china cabinet. My old Onkyo stereo system with its double cassette players and giant black speakers. God! I was so excited when I bought that thing a million years ago.
When I finally mustered up the motivated to clean the room so I could get some seeds started, just walking in there took me back to the flood. The unopened hedge trimmer I won in some essay contest nearly 4 years ago laying the middle of the floor still wrapped in plastic, the box warped and discolored. Both of my already confirmed-dead cordless drills still there because I couldn't bring myself to get rid of them, yet. The rusted drill bits. Gallon water jugs cut for winter sowing sitting in the middle of the room where they'd floated off the bottom shelf of the metal seed rack eventually settling there when the water finally drained. And the new $800 water heater we bought after the flood ruined ours leaving us hot water-less for days. Still, once I got started, it was just like being in the garden. Getting into a zone. Losing yourself then suddenly realizing you're finished as a sense of accomplishment washes over you.
Even though I've been starting some of my own plants from seed over the past few years, I never get the timing right. I'm late with everything. Sometimes so late that the seedlings don't grow large enough to be transplanted into the ground by summer and end up in the compost pile. This year is liable to be the same but I am happy to report I'm off to a better start than usual.
In zone 5, now is the time to start onions and leeks. Onions take a long time to grow from seed. In fact, they need nearly 12 weeks before they're ready to transplant. This year I am growing Flat of Italy and Jaune Paille Des Vertus onions, both from several year old seeds. I sowed about 3 seeds per pellet in hopes I'll get at least one in every pellet to germinate.
More than anything else in gardening, seed starting brings out my insecurities. As meticulously as I can, I drop the seeds down into what is supposed to be the hole in the rehydrated pellet but the seeds, usually some shade of brown, blend in with the stringy granules of choir the pellets are filled with and I'm never really sure I actually got them in the hole. Or if they're laying on top of the choir. Or if the seeds even hit the pellet at all. Still, I assume they are there then take the end of a pen, gently pressing down in the center of the pellets, worrying the seeds might be sticking to the pen and I'm actually shoving multiple types of seed into one pellet. What I'm saying is there's a good chance that I'll have Painted Daisy, Thyme and Stevia all fighting for space in the same pellet. Then I'll be faced with the moral dilemma of which gets sacrificed. What I need is a fancy instrument to inject single seeds, no matter how tiny they are.
It's cold down in the basement. The seed tray covers will keep the seeds a little warmer but I still have to fight the urge to plug up a space heater. Then I envision the space heater resulting in a $500 electric bill, or worse, starting a fire that'll burn our house down. And there's the fear that nothing will germinate. That somehow I have contaminated every single pellet. Or that nature just stopped working. The failure of seeds to germinate can be pretty traumatic for a gardener. For now I'm hoping that seeds are where they need to be, properly hydrated, not contaminated and warm, enough.