Seeds of a family -- 4-7-14

When our boys were small, my wife and I did a variety of parent-child projects with them, including studying for Cub Scout merit badges, helping them build science projects and even setting up an oversized train board topped with a compressed fiber pad called Homasote so that the trains didn’t sound like steel-wheel roller skates running on playground concrete.

That was a long time ago, but this year our oldest son Michael asked me to join him in another project, this one involving raised-bed gardens at his home near Greencastle, Pa. He’s doing the pick-and-shovel work, while I consult on planting dates and growing methods. I’m not sure how much my advice is worth, but my fee is affordable. Actually, it’s nonexistent.

He recently gave me a list of things that he’d like to grow in his salad bed. This time my job is to check on the planting dates and growing methods.

His list includes:

ƒÑ Burpee Bam Basil. This is a flowerless basil that, Burpee assures us, will not bolt. It should be planted in full sun and will mature in 60 to 120 days. He’ll need to hold off on transplants until nighttime temperatures average higher than 50 degrees. Planting sooner will mean running the risk of downy mildew. Burpee sells three plants for $16.95.

a Burpee Calypso Cilantro. My son will grow this one from seed to produce coriander seeds. It will go into the ground after the last frost date, about May 15. Burpee suggests covering it with a ¼ of an inch of soil and says seedlings should emerge in 14 to 21 days. The cost for seed will be $4.95 for a packet of 150 seeds.

a Burpee Spaghetti Squash Tivoli Hybrid. My wife and I grew this early and I didn’t care for the taste -- it had a hint of vinegar or something. But my son has done better with it. Tivoli is an All-America Winner, with a compact vine that produces fruit in 98 days. Burpee says that once plants get two inches tall, they should be mulched and watered well on a regular basis. The cost for these is $5.95 for a packet of 30 seeds.

a Burpee Big Guy Jalapeno Hybrid. This a hot pepper that, as its name suggests, is not a peewee specimen, but one that averages five inches long and an inch across. Plants can go into the ground May 1, but Burpee suggests warming the soil with dark-colored polyethylene mulch prior to planting. Three of these plants will cost $16.95.

a Burpee California Wonder Sweet Pepper. This an heirloom plant first offered in 1928. My son is choosing plants -- three for $15.95 -- so they should go into the ground on or about May 1. The same advice applies to these as to the hot peppers listed previously. My own experience is that bell peppers can be temperamental based on the weather. For a week or so, they’ll sit and do nothing, then take off and produce prolifically. This is where better record-keeping would have paid off, telling me whether it was a cold snap or a dry spell that was causing the problem.

Ą Burpee Organic Oregano. This a bargain, with a packet containing 1,500 seeds for just $4.95. These should be sown in full sun after the temperatures begin to average higher than 45 degrees Farenheit. Like bluegrass seed, these should be barely covered with soil and kept moist.

a Burpee Common Chives. The seed company says this is a customer favorite. With a flower resembling red clover, it matures in 80 to 90 days. It can become a perennial and should be cut to the ground after the flower blooms. A 500-seed packet costs $3.95.

My son also wants to fill his salad bowls with habaneros, cucumbers and scallions, but hasn’t settled on varieties yet. When he does, we’ll update you. The bottom line on what he’s chosen so far is that for most, there is still a few weeks that can be used to plan and think about doing it correctly --without doing it the hard way. Fortunately, I have plenty of experience in the latter and might be able to help him avoid the traps I fell into when he was just a little seedling himself.

Before we sign off, Burpee announced it was taking part in a nationwide promotion to have people start seeds this past Saturday. That deadline is past, but planting some seeds with your children is still a good idea. Get a clean pot, some potting soil and some easy-to-grow seeds, such a tomatoes, and plant them as a team.

The lessons that can be learned include: the value of doing things correctly, the need to wait for good things to happen and the pride that comes from bringing a crop to harvest. That’s pkretty cheap for some valuable lessons like these.

(Did you like this column? Please send suggestions and constructive criticism to



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