I am looking for a home for some perennial seeds; I used just a few seeds out of each flower seed packet and can’t bear to throw the rest away!  The seeds are for these perennial flowering plants which will all be useful as cut flowers:

Asclepias Gay Butterflies (Butterfly Weed)
Chinese Lantern (considered an annual in some areas)
Coreopsis grandiflora ‘Sunray’
Geum chiloense ‘Lady Stratheden’
Helenium autumnale Yellow
Penstemon strictus (Rocky Mountain)
Platycodon Komanchi (Balloon Flower)
Rudbeckia Green Wizard

If you would like a packet of seeds, just drop me a line in the comments box.  If the adoption response is good, I will pick eight winners, if not, you might end up with all of them.  If you are a randomly chosen winner, I will contact you for your mailing address – the postage is on me!  Happy Gardening!

If you love pesto ….

March 7, 2010

Try growing Lettuce Leaf Basil for an abundant harvest of enormous basil leaves to make your own pesto with.

I ordered my seeds from Pinetree Garden Seeds, but also found them in the Seeds of Change catalog.

Last summer I bought some of this flavorful basil at a local Farmers Market, and was convinced that I should add it to my list of  ‘New Vegetable Trials’ for this year.

Also on my ‘New vegetable Trial List’ for this year are:
Sugar Nut Melon
San Marzano paste tomato
Yugoslavian Red lettuce
Costoluto Genovese tomato
Carola potato
Marina Di Chioggia squash
Big Daddy pepper
Black Truffle tomato
Broccoli Romanseco Veronica

1.  When seedlings have one or two sets of leaves, it is time to transplant them into individual containers.  Start by watering the seedlings well before transplanting.  Loosely fill containers or cell packs with moistened potting soil, then make a hole for the roots with your fingers in each container or cell.

2.  Gently remove the seedlings from the tray.  While holding onto the leaves of the seedling, use a butter knife or popsicle stick to gently lift up under the roots to remove the seedling.  Always handle the seedling by the leaves or the root ball; the stem is very fragile and can easily be injured.

seed starting transplanting seedling in cell2
3.  Place seedling in hole of individual cell or container.  For very small plants like lettuce, I often put two plants in a cell.

seed starting transplanting lifting seedling
4.  Firm soil around seedling, adding soil to fill container or cell to the top.

seed starting transplanting packing seedling
5.  When transplanting is finished, water seedlings with a weak fertilizer solution, and let them rest for 8-12 hours before putting them under grow lights or in a sunny window.

seed starting transplanting place in window
6.  If growing on under lights, have the lights 1 or 2 inches above the top of the leaves, and move the lights up (or plants down) as the plants grow.  Placing a fan to blow on the plants will make them sturdier, as will growing them on in cooler temperatures.  Check your seed packet directions for recommended growing on temperatures.
7.  Monitor for moisture; let the surface of the soil dry before watering again, and feed once a week with a very diluted solution of water soluble fertilizer.  (Such as 1/4 teaspoon granular Miracle Gro to 1 gallon of water.)
8.  A week before planting outside, begin to harden off the seedlings.  Move the trays of seedlings outdoors in a shady location, and a protected area out of the wind.  Bring them back indoors each evening for the first few days.  After a few days, move to a half sun location, and a few days later to a full sun location.  Keep them well watered, and move out of the sun if they show signs of wilting.  Now you shouldn’t have to bring them indoors overnight unless the weather turns cold.  After a week of hardening off, your transplants should be ready to get planted in your gardens or outside containers.

Germination of seeds

April 13, 2009

seed starting sprouts

Just one week after planting seeds indoors, I have hundreds of seedlings that have germinated.  The little green things just make my heart sing!  Now I will be monitoring them for moisture, and waiting for the true leaves to appear so I can start transplanting into individual pots.

1.  Read packet information for seed starting directions:  how many weeks to start before last frost, temperature needed for germination, and how many days to germination.  Keep a journal of what varieties you started on what date, and how long it took until germination occurred.

seed starting seed packet
2.  I use recyclable, disposable aluminum lasagna pans to start my seedlings, they will last a number of years before you have to replace them.  Poke holes in the bottom for drainage.

seed starting pan with holes
3.  Use a seed starting mix to start your seeds.  Seed starting mix is sterile and will help prevent damping off disease, and the light texture aids in germination and rooting of the seeds.  Add warm water to your seed starting mix, approximately 1 to 1½ cups of water to four cups of starting mix.  Mix thoroughly to get soil evenly moist, it should be damp but not soggy; you should be able to squeeze out a few drops of water when you squeeze a handful.

planting seeds starter

4.  Fill your tray almost to the top, patting down to make a firm layer of soil.

seed starting fill tray
5.  Make shallow rows in soil about 1 inch to 1 ½ inches apart; using a pen or pencil push down to make an indentation.

seed starting making rows
6.  Cut open seed packet, and evenly distribute seeds in the rows; for very small seeds hold the packet sideways while lightly tapping the top with your finger to control the flow of the seeds.

seed starting planting seeds
7.  Read packet information to find out whether the seed should be covered with soil.  Some require covering and others do not,  and it will affect the germination of the seeds.  If the seeds require covering, cover with a fine sprinkling of DRY seed starting mix, then press firmly so soil makes good contact with seed.

seed starting covering rows
8.  Lightly mist rows of seeds, both covered and uncovered.

seed starting misting rows
9.  Label variety of seeds on outside of tray.

seed starting labeling rows

10.  Place a well fitted cover over the tray, or place tray in a clear plastic bag and seal.  Place in a warm area (not in direct sunlight) to germinate, unless your packet directions specify otherwise.  I place mine on a shelf with a florescent shop light above it; the lights give off a little warmth that speeds germination.  I use one cool florescent lamp and one warm florescent lamp, I read once that using both will benefit the seedlings.

seed starting under lights

Most seeds require about 70 degrees to germinate, and every seed variety has a different time length to germinate.  I try to plant seeds together that need the same germination temperature and have the same length of germination time.
11.  Monitor for moisture; you should be able to see moisture on the cover and the soil should appear damp.  If watering is needed, always water from the bottom, and don’t over water to prevent damping off disease.

seed starting moisture cover
12.  Remove cover when most of seeds have sprouted.  If growing under lights (florescent shop lights will work fine, no need to invest in expensive grow lights), keep the lights just a few inches above the seedlings, this will produce stockier plants.  Set a timer to deliver at least 12 hours of light per day.  If growing on in a window, choose a bright window that receives a lot of daylight.   Monitor daily for moisture.  Transplant when seedlings have 2 or more true leaves to individual pots.

Winter sowing is a fairly new method of seed starting for seeds that require a cold period to germinate, such as Delphinium or Aquilegia (Columbine).  This method can be done in January, February and March.  Click here for a seed list of plants that should work well for winter sowing.

Materials needed:
Clean, used plastic gallon milk containers, or bakery clam shells
Potting soil or Seed starting mix
Clear Duct tape
Permanent Marker

1.  If using a milk jug, cut it in half, leaving one inch uncut right below the handle for a ‘hinge’.  Cut several slits in the bottom for drainage.  Discard cap off top of jug.
2.  Add water to dampen your potting soil; moist enough that when you squeeze a handful it will clump together.
planting seeds starter
3.  Fill the bottom of the milk jug with the dampened potting soil to a depth of 3 or 4 inches, pressing the soil firmly to pack.

planting seeds in milk jar
4.  To make rows, using a pen or pencil, press firmly into soil to make rows. (This is optional.)

planting seeds making rows
5.  Evenly distribute seeds onto soil or in the rows; for very small seeds hold the packet sideways while lightly tapping the top with your finger to control the flow of the seeds.

planting seeds
6.  Spread a thin layer of dry seed starter over seeds; skip this step if the seeds require light to germinate.
7.  Press down soil firmly over seeds to establish good soil contact with the seeds.
8.  Lightly mist the entire top of the soil.

planting seeds spritzing
9.  Place a label inside the container.  I make mine from old plastic window blinds.

planting seeds adding label

10.  Using clear duct tape, tape top and bottom of milk jug together.  Label the outside of the container with a permanent marker.
11.  Place the jugs outside on the east, south or west side of your house; not in a protected area, making sure that rain or snow can reach the containers.

planting seeds placing outside
12.  Watch containers for adequate moisture, condensation inside the jugs indicates enough moisture.  If the soil appears dry, mist gently to moisten. As the weather warms up, check for germination and growth of plants.  Cut extra holes to ensure plants do not overheat, and to help with the hardening off process.  Around mid-May the covers can be completely removed, provided germination is complete.

I am trying it for the first time this year with a few perennial varieties of Delphinium and Columbine, and annual snapdragons.  I will share the progress and results of how this new technique worked for me.

Update:  this technique worked well, I think I would have had more success if I had used potting soil instead of soil starting mix.  The soil starting mix is lighter and dried out fairly quick, I believe potting soil would have held moisture better and needed less watering.  Next year I will try some on the north side of the house, I think they dried out to quick on the south side.

It’s been a long cold winter, and it is easy to go overboard ordering seeds and plants when I am STARVED for Spring, green, color, and dirt.  So yes, I did go overboard, and now I will be making a mad dash to the mailbox everyday until the orders have all arrived.

I am trying some new flowers and vegetables this year-

From Park Seed:
Lamb’s Tail Joey
Amaranthus ‘Autumn’s Touch’
Sunflower Cherry Rose
Pepper Flavorburst Hybrid

From Thompson and Morgan:
Delphinium Green Twist
Strawberry Sticks
Cherry Brandy Rudbeckia

From Cook’s Garden:
Basil Cardinal
Paste Tomato Polish Linguisa

From Johnny’s Selected Seed:
Sylphid Celosia
Ruby Silk Grass
Musque de Provence Pumpkin
Happy Rich Broccoli

From Territorial Seeds:
Sweet Pea Currant Tomato
Goosebumps Pumpkin
Bule Gourd

From Jung Seed:
Phantom Eupatorium
Green Envy Echinacea
O Henry Sweet Potato

From Burpee Seeds:
Tequilla Lime Zinnia
Red Popper Pepper

I have ordered quite a bit more than this, but these are the most unique and exciting plants I will be trying this year.  In a few days I will be starting my seeds, I will post then on do-it-yourself seed starting.