The Season for Seeds

An important competition is going on at Crossroads at Big Creek (and everywhere else.) In the plant world, countless seeds are produced each year…..seeds for trees, seeds for wildflowers, seeds for weeds. And competition for survival is fierce. The odds of an individual seed actually growing into a healthy plant are dismal.
Here in Wisconsin, a seed must first survive winter. It might rot or mildew. The seed could become a meal of some ravenous little animal. Or be corpted by an insect larva. Or any of number of things.
Being  cold does not hurt seeds. In fact, many of our native seeds cannot sprout unless they have been frozen for a while, and then thawed. (This is a survival feature–if seeds could germinate whenever the weather is mild, we would have had seeds sprouting last January.)
But when (true) spring does arrive and seeds start to grow, every seedling requires certain conditions: a combination of nutrients, chemical balance, the right temperatures and humidity. Too little or too much of anything can be devastating. And oh, by the way, every species of plants has a unique set of requirements, so conditions that are is good for one seedling are not necessarily good for another.
When any one environmental variable is in short supply in a habitat—and one usually is, [scientists call this the “limiting factor”] plants must compete. The limiting factor in a forest habitat often is sunlight. Seedlings that fail to get enough light weaken and eventually die.  Last year, in many Wisconsin habitats, the limiting factor was water. And some seedlings didn’t make it.
In a very real way, a garden is a habitat. To thrive, seeds planted in a garden also require certain conditions. It is up to the gardener to create the best possible conditions for each kind of seed to flourish. But in the artificial habitat, a gardener can at least try to manipulate the soil texture and nutrients, to provide the appropriate amount of water at the appropriate time of day, and to control weeds and harmful insects (while encouraging the helpful ones), so that plants have the best possible chance to flower or to produce vegetables. Gardening is a complicated endeavor.
So each spring, A Garden Workshop for Families, offered by Master Gardeners, Pat’s Patch, and the Community’s Garden and Crossroads, is held in the Collins Learning Center and the Heritage Garden at The Crossroads. Families take part in a four-session workshop during which they make soil blocks and plant seeds in the Crossroads greenhouse, discover how to make good garden soil, and learn how to keep weeds under control. The best part is that at the end of the workshop, each family leaves with an assortment of vegetable starts which they can grow at home or in the Community’s Garden.
The family workshop will be offered from 6:00-7:30 on Tuesdays, April 9, April 23, May 7, and May 21. While the parents attend the lectures about sustainable gardening, the children participate in nature-related activities outdoors (weather-permitting) But everyone helps with the planting and tending of the plants, and the young and old alike enjoy the samples of homegrown vegetables. The materials fee is $15 per family and the class is filling up fast. Pre-registration is required. For information about space availability, contact Jenny Spude at UW-Extension Nutrion Educator (920) 746-5994.
This week, the history video  The Loggers of Door County will be screened on Wednesday, April 3 at 3:30. This video documentary , created by the Door County Historical Society, tells the story of the logging era in Door County. Free and open to the public.

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