Pre-Germination, again

corn germinating sharpened LAHGardeners, 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

“Days to Maturity”

tomatoes-greenhouse-2008sept08-lah-296When can I pick my tomatoes? Will these melons ripen in my short growing season? If I plant these flowers from seed, when will I have blooms?

“Days to maturity” is one of the most important factors in determining what we can grow in our high altitude gardens. Technically, this number tells the gardener how long a particular crop or variety takes, on average, to yield a harvestable crop. However, it’s all a bit fuzzy.

For example, most catalogs or seed packets list days to maturity for vegetables, but only a few mention how long it takes for flowers to bloom. Are they talking about the length of time it takes for a plant to mature a crop from seed—or transplants? And how old a transplant?  In addition, when you compare catalogs from different parts of the country, days to maturity vary even for the same kind of tomato or bean. Clearly this concept is more complicated than it first appears.

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Abusing Your Seeds

If you’re having trouble getting some of your seeds to germinate, it may be that you’re being too nice to them. Armed with tough defenses against all that nature can throw at them, some seeds refuse to grow unless they’re forced to. This year, consider seed assault and battery, followed by water torture. Here’s how to abuse your seeds.

Scarification

Morning Glories have hard seed coats.

Morning Glories have extremely hard seed coats.

The coat of some seeds is very hard and tough. Normally, this protects the seed and ensures that conditions for germination are favorable. In nature, seeds may pass through the digestive tract of a bird or animal, or be burned in a fire. A hard seed coat gives these seeds a longer storage life as well.

Since you’re unlikely to eat or roast your seeds, you need to provide another way for air and water to reach the tiny embryo inside that armored seed coat. Using chemical or mechanical means to create a weak spot or crack in the seed coat is called “scarification.”

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Giving Your Seeds the Cold Shoulder

Bleeding Heart seeds need chilling.

Bleeding Heart seeds need chilling.

Are you itching to get started on your spring garden?

Regardless of the prognostication of groundhogs, those of us living in the high country can expect far more than six additional weeks of winter. It’s only the end of February, and we can get snow through May and even into June. Yet, reports of crocuses and rhododendrons from other parts of the country waken in us hope that there must be something we can be doing now.

If you placed your seed order last month, odds are you’ve received your seeds. You’re desperate to plant some, but you know it’s way too early. Overgrown, leggy seedlings are failures in the garden.

Well, you’re in luck. You can—you should—get started on some of those seeds.

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Recycled “Greenscapes”

continer-whimsy-dbg-2008jun26-lah-461“Don’t throw that away!”

My family is used to my exhortations by now. Mom, the recycling nut. It’s true—I have a bin for metals and one for plastics, 1 through 7. Glass has its own container, next to the compost bucket. Worms eat my garbage. Paper and cardboard pile up in old laundry baskets (I’m recycling the baskets too). Still-usable discards go to the thrift stores, worn out clothes get used as rags. Not much ends up in the small trash can we lug to the curb every week.

As a gardener, I want to extend my recycling efforts to my yard. How can I avoid making new purchases for my garden?

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