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”
Today’s post is a simple reminder to gardeners hoping to grow something new and exciting. As gardeners, we’re always tempted by a special cultivar that is unusual, a bit out of the ordinary. Why else the hunt for black flowers—roses, or petunias—especially when the colors they do come in are so much prettier? I have a friend who paid a considerable sum for a yellow peony—just because most peonies are white, pink, or red.
There are plenty of unusual plants to keep us happy. We can grow purple carrots or potatoes, orange cauliflower, and corn with hues to rival a box of crayons. Apparently that’s not good enough. There are scurrilous people just waiting to take advantage of gardeners who desire something truly unique.
Continue reading “Caveat emptor”
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”
It was a lovely hike, even if the plants were all still dormant. Coming back to the car, I bent over to unlace my hiking boots, only to discover that my laces were a solid mass of stickers—graceful foxtails, round burrs, and what looked like exceptionally tenacious Velcro. As I worked the knots loose while trying to protect my fingers, I was once again impressed by how capable plants are at getting around. Their lack of legs doesn’t slow them down at all!
Continue reading “Getting Around”
Sometimes I think January is my favorite month of the gardening calendar. Temperatures plummet and the ground is frozen solid. Anything at all frost-tender succumbed to the cold months ago. My raised beds look suspiciously like burial vaults covered in mulch. Yet, in my mind’s eye, my 2018 veggie garden is flourishing.
You see, I’ve been reading seed catalogs.
Continue reading “Anticipating Spring”
There are about a zillion bird feeders on the market. They come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. They’re made from anything from plastic to wood to gleaming copper. Some hang from supports or tree branches, others perch on posts, attach to deck railings, or are anchored at ground level. Some feeders are designed to attract squirrels and others claim to exclude them. There are feeders to match every kind of seed, from tiny nyjer to peanuts in the shell, plus specialized feeders for corn cobs, suet, meal worms, jelly, fruit halves, and sugar water. With so many to choose from, how can one possibly decide which is the perfect feeder to buy? Continue reading “Choosing a Birdfeeder”
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”
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”
The birdfeeder had been up for weeks, but no birds came to dine. My friend was understandably frustrated. “Why won’t the birds come to my yard?” she asked. “I spent all this money on a feeder and birdseed, but they don’t seem to care!”
I thought about all the birds flocking around my assortment of feeders, and tried to see the differences. What was she doing—or not doing—that I was doing differently? We both lived in suburbia, amid rows of houses with lawns and trees and shrubs. In fact, we were only a few miles apart. So why did I have finches and doves and hummingbirds (and more), and she did not?
Continue reading “But Where Are the Birds?”
January. The start of a new year. The start of a new garden. As I contemplate my empty veggie beds, I feel like a race car driver waiting at the starting line. “Gentlemen (gentlewomen?), start your engines!”
This year is truly new in another way. We moved last year, and I no longer have a my huge veggie garden. I used to have twelve, 4ˈ x 12ˈ beds, plus four 4ˈ x 4ˈ herb beds, plus a series of 2ˈ wide border beds around the entire area, ideal for pole beans, peas, and perennials (lovage, currants, berries, asparagus). Now I have two, 4ˈ x 10ˈ raised beds. Two. Well, we intended to downsize, right?
Continue reading “What to Grow?”