Top Navigation  
U.S. Flag waving
Office Hours Momday - Friday  8 am - 5 pm Pacific 1-800-835-2418
Facebook   YouTube   Twitter
 Home Page
 Current Issue
 Article Index
 Author Index
 Previous Issues

 Kindle Subscriptions
 Kindle Publications
 Back Issues
 Discount Books
 All Specials
 Classified Ad

 Web Site Ads
 Magazine Ads

 BHM Forum
 Contact Us/
 Change of Address

Forum / Chat
 Forum/Chat Info
 Lost Password
 Write For BHM

Link to BHM

Ask Jackie headline

Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

Order from Amazon. Order from the publisher, save 10%, and get FREE shipping.

Jackie Clay

The seed starting is gearing up, even in below zero temps

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

I’ve got all our pepper seeds started and am nearly done with the tomatoes. We had some old squash and pumpkin seeds, some of which were donated by a reader to whom I sent Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds. Since we are planning on a massive pumpkin/squash patch on the edge of the cleared section of our new 40 acres, I wanted to make sure those seeds, from 2003-2009, were still viable. (No sense in planting dead seeds!) So I picked out some seeds of each kind and put them into bowls with old washcloths, which I kept moist, and set them on the table next to the wood stove where our seed starting trays are. It’s constantly warm and after a week, we started seeing little rootlets popping out of seeds. All in all, we had excellent germination; over 75%, so we’re all set to go come spring.


We plan on fencing the pumpkin patch minimally, hopefully enough to keep deer (which don’t really eat pumpkin/squash vines or the fruit when it gets larger) and our horses and cattle out. We can water the plants, if needed, using our 350-gallon poly water tank, mounted in the bed of our pickup, by driving along next to the long narrow patch and watering. We’ll see how that works.

We needed to sell our 2-year-old Red Wattle boar, Richard, because we kept two of his daughters, which will be bred in a couple of months to our other, unrelated boar. Since he is such a nice boar with a pet-personality, I was hoping someone would buy him who would give him a good home. I advertised him on Craigslist and in less than half an hour, we got a call. And it was our friends, John and Gerry, who had decided they wanted to go back into raising pigs after several years! Richard got the best home possible. Treats and scratching guaranteed! What a relief. Yes, we eat some of our livestock. But all of them get plenty of petting, good care, and love while we have them.

When we delivered Richard, Gerry gave me one of their emu eggs, which I’ll blow out and give to our two youngest grandchildren, Mason and Ava, for Easter. Wow, is it HUGE! And such a pretty watermelon dark green, too.


Just a note to those of you who are coming to our August seminar, Will was over to our friend Sam’s yesterday and asked him if he’d consider bringing his Belgian workhorse team and wagon over to our place and giving a hayride during the seminar. He agreed. So the Saturday (unless it rains!) of our weenie roast, we will all get a an old-fashioned ride behind Sam’s beautiful team. Isn’t that great? By the way, we still have a few slots open for anyone who has been thinking of coming. Check out the link above on our seminar. — Jackie

8 Responses to “The seed starting is gearing up, even in below zero temps”

  1. Meary Says:

    Some of those seeds are pretty old! Did you store them in a refrigerator over summers? Congratulations on the germination rate.

  2. Howard Says:

    A suggestion on watering your squash and pumpkin row. Lay a line of drip tape on each side of the row. Make a garden hose adapter for the outlet on the tank and park the truck over night and let the water drip slowly. You waste less water and it all goes to the plants instead of evaporating off the leaves. I wish we could grow quantity squash and pumpkins. I’m going to try a short row with IRT mulch on the ground and row cover and on cold nights plastic over it this year.
    Kenny Lake, Alaska

  3. jackie clay-atkinson Says:


    No, those seeds were just stored in bags in plastic totes. I’ve germinated 12 year old squash seeds as well, with just minimal loss of viability. Seeds last longer than most people give them credit for. Especially seed companies who want you to buy more new ones!

  4. jackie clay-atkinson Says:


    Very good idea! We will definitely do this. I’m always amazed at the creativity of homesteaders!!! Thank you for sharing. Good luck with your growing. I’ve used plastic in the field as mulch as well as covering to heat up the soil/plants. And it did a good job for me, hurrying up maturity and keeping early and late frosts at bay.

  5. Sheryl Says:

    A hayride! Oh, how awesome! I am so hyped already. Hurry up August

  6. Sherry Says:

    Great news about the germination of your seeds, gives me hope on the ones I have been storing.
    We are trying something new in our garden this year. We are using a covering of wood chips. We have been told that the wood will absorb water to keep plants moist, (since we seem to be entering another drought it will help). Also the wood breaks down to feed nutrients to the plants and the dry chips on top help keep weeds at bay. We will not need to till again, so we’ve been told, just add manures to the top and rake and water it in. I would think it would keep your plants warmer also. I’ll let you know how it works!

  7. michele Says:

    Thanks for the new way to germinate. I’ve always used paper towels and for whatever reason never thought to use a towel.
    LOL, So you must tell me, what kind of deer do you have that don’t eat the vines or larger fruit??? I had beautiful squash and pumpkins last year and the deer had a feast of half of the vines and most of the fruit. Those rascals. They left my peas and beans alone until the veggies started to come then they too were nibbled down to practically nothing. They got 4-5 of my paste tomatoes too.

  8. jackie clay-atkinson Says:


    We have plain old whitetail deer. We’ve been lucky so far in that they don’t snack on our squash/pumpkin vines and fruit until the frosts. There’s plenty for the deer around here to eat during the summer, especially the new seeding on our new pasture. We are going to fence the patch, but not the 6′ high fence we’ve got around everything else. The guy we bought our truckloads of pumpkins from didn’t have his field of 20 acres fenced other than a single strand of electric. But his cabbages, brocolli, turnips, etc. had an 8′ high fence!

    Here’s hoping but if it doesn’t work, we’ll figure out something else next year. Homesteading is one big experiment.

Leave a Reply

Please DO NOT ask Jackie a question here.
It will not be answered.
Go to the top of the page and use the
"Click here to ask Jackie a question!" link.


Copyright © 1998 - Present by Backwoods Home Magazine. All Rights Reserved.