As the seed catalogs pile up on my nightstand, the choices become overwhelming. It’s hard enough to choose which flowers and veggies to grow this coming year. But then there are page after page of cultivars to choose from.
This isn’t a new problem. As is true today, the 1930s was a time when plant breeders were creating a lot of “improved” flower and vegetable cultivars. Were they really better than the old standards? With all the new choices, how could home gardeners know which were the best? Continue reading “All-America Selections”
I first posted this about ten years ago. Since my husband had unexpected bypass surgery today, I don’t have the time (or the concentration!) to write a new post. I hope you find this flashback to be a helpful reminder as we start our seeds for the upcoming growing season.
Raise your hand if you remember starting seeds in elementary school. Perhaps they sprouted in the cells of a cardboard egg carton. Sound familiar? Now, did your seedlings grow and thrive? Hmm, thought so. Granted, you probably forgot to water them, or you dropped the whole shebang on the way home from school. But it wasn’t all your fault. Egg cartons make awful seed starting containers.
What should you use to start those little seedlings? There are a number of excellent choices. Suitable containers share several attributes.
Continue reading “Starting Seeds: Containers”
Gardeners, especially those in short-season areas, will do almost anything to get a jump on the growing season. Pre-germinating your seeds is one excellent way to speed up the sometimes tedious wait for sprouting seedlings. At my daughter’s request, I’m re-posting this article that originally ran back in 2009. I wrote it for vegetable gardeners, but it could work just as well for many flower seeds.
The nice thing about pre-sprouting your seeds is that you don’t need any fancy equipment. No grow lights or windowsill, no sterile potting mix, no seed trays or peat pots or six-packs. Most of us have paper towels, sealable plastic bags, and even a shallow pan we can fill with cornstarch (or unflavored gelatin) and water. It’s easy, fast, and a fun way to get the kids involved. Here’s my method: Continue reading “Pre-Germination, again”
While we haven’t had a hard freeze yet, the lack of warm sunshine is telling my plants that the season is about over. Poppy seedheads act like salt shakers—just invert and shake out the seeds. We missed harvesting some pole beans and they’re now overripe, the pods puffy and enlarged. I’m letting them dry on the vine.
I let some of the cilantro mature and bloom, as the flowers attract lacewings and other beneficial insects. Parsley is a biennial, and I overwintered last year’s crop; it also bloomed this summer. Both are producing more seeds than I will ever use. Continue reading “Save the Seeds”
The link promised to tell me when I should start my vegetable garden—when to sow seeds indoors, and when to sow or transplant outdoors. Just type in my zip code, and I’d have information customized for my area, courtesy of the National Gardening Association. I rarely click on ads, but I’ve found the NGA to be helpful in the past. Besides, I was curious. I have 24 years of records telling me when to plant in my area—how would their site measure up?
Continue reading “Microclimates Matter”
For an avid gardener, January can be a difficult time of year. Sure, we can dream. The seed catalogs that have been arriving for a month now are filled with post-it notes, dog-eared corners, and bright yellow highlights. At the same time, I’ve decided and re-decided (at least a dozen times) where I’m going to plant each seedling once the weather warms. I love the optimism of dreaming, but sometimes I just want to get my fingers into some soil—even if the “soil” came out of a bag of potting mix.
At this time of year, gardening outside is pretty much impossible. The ground is frozen, and there’s still a layer of snow in the shadows on the north side of the house. Besides, it’s cold out there!
Continue reading “Seeds to Start in January”
Everything is growing. Buds are bursting, early flowers are in bloom, and millions of tiny seeds are breaking through the soil into eager growth. It’s a wonderful time of year, and a busy one for gardeners. As we sow seeds and pull weeds, the question arises—which is which? Should we dig out that clump of green, or is it a desirable plant?
This is especially difficult if it’s a new yard, and this is our first chance to see what’s growing in it. Let me tell you a short story illustrating my gardening ineptitude.
Continue reading “Weed? Or Wonderful?”