Thursday, February 21, 2013

A New Chapter in Starting (some) Seeds

Every day I am reminded of what I do not know. Today was another one of those days. I've been starting seeds long enough that it seems I should have a basic understanding of the process, which I do, but being open to other methods just reaped grand rewards. I know it's kind of dramatic when I'm only talking about germination, but this is the shit that makes life bloom. Ah, seeds.

This gem of a gardener and author, Nancy J Ondra, of Hayefield, not only has an AMAZING yard she also offered up a bunch of her seeds to the first responders to her blog. I was one of the lucky recipients! That generous gift was followed by a post on starting seeds. She read something that had changed how she approached starting seeds, which got me interested. The method was seemingly simple and something most kids have done in elementary school; starting seeds in baggies. But what didn't occur to me is that I could start larger seeds quicker and with better return IF I could find a 70 degree place to put these. I do not have a 70 degree room in my house, unless it's July. After taking a few thermometer readings in microclimates around the house, I found one; on top of the hot water tank. No shit.

So, I ran 1 experiment. One baggie, one paper towel, barely moist and sandwiching 15 Poblano pepper seeds. Now, I must premise by saying that IF my peppers germinate it takes 3+ weeks for that to occur. These poblanos germinated in 4 days. Come again? My life as I know it has changed. No more overwintering my favorite chili pepper plants! I've already decided to branch out and try some eggplant seeds. They are smaller, but still manageable. Of course you can't use this technique with tiny seeds. Too bad. Maybe I need to experiment with super thin, easily compostable paper towels.

Bad news- I couldn't get a decent photo of the germination. This was the best I could get:
Poblano pepper seeds germination- hot water tank

IF there is a downside to this method it is that you have to check the seeds nearly every day. Staring at soil to see if anything has come up is like watching water boil. It isn't a problem for me. 

Lots of seed starting business going down these days. Progress reports:
I started to move some of the peppers off of the bottom heat to use that space to start other things. These fellows were looking good and I gave up on believing any more would germinate. 

Lots of spring garden schtuff germinating and I've already begun to harden off in the window wells. We had sleet, snow and everything in between today so I brought two flats back under the lights (for today only).

Lettuce, kale, spinach, mesclun, scallions and more.
Scallions germinating in lower, right hand pot.

Lots of Browalia

Just seeded Alyssum- white

What every member of the Brassica (cabbage) family looks like upon germination:

Tropical Cuttings are looking good.

That's it folks. I got nothing more to say, only more seeds to start.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Count down til Spring

More days in the 40's & 50's, crocus & witch hazel in bloom and more daffodils coming up are reminders that spring is nearer than far. Fabulous. My winter "greenhouse" of a basement can only provide me with so much green therapy.
Sprouting Purple Broccoli ready for transplanting

Furthest along of the basement seedlings are the Sprouting Purple Broccoli. I've just begun transplanting them into their individual cells. I'm sure I will have some to share. This one has many small heads rather than 1 large central head. I grew it last year, but the heat and drought prevented it from getting very far along. 

 Transplants in progress

It took about 2 weeks for my first pepper seeds to germinate and most still haven't after nearly 4. I won't give up. Even with plenty of moisture, bottom heat and a microclimate around 70 degrees they are still slow. 

Pepper seedlings

Others germinating are a mixed colored Yarrow and Johnny Jump Ups

Johnny Jump Ups- Viola
Notice the many reused containers that are great for starting seedlings, including yogurt cups, tofu tubs, mushroom containers and aluminum trays and bottoms of plastic litter containers for bottom watering.

On warmer or sunnier days I've noticed the Witch Hazel in bloom. It emits a wonderful clove aroma unlike anything else outside at this time of year. I've just started adding Hellebores to the gardens so hopefully I can add to my winter blooming collection. 
Even though it is cloudy with a 90% chance of rain the Witch Hazel is open.
Temp is suppose to be around 60 today.

The turnip seeds I planted have surprised me with germination already.
These are Boule D'or or golden ball/orange jelly turnips. I got the seed from Baker's
Creek after a friend asked me about a yellow "swede" he use to eat & grow as a child. 
Might this be the same one?

On 2 sunny days these were open.

On nicer days I would clean up one bed (row) at a time. Most are ready now.
It looks pretty messy still. 

Latest project: dry stacked brick beds.
I got about 650 bricks for free from a friend wanting to unload them. I put them where my older, first garden was. In this bed I planted today: nigella, larkspur & poppies. In other beds I also planted bachelor buttons. This is an ideal time to plant these as they like to germinate in cooler conditions and bloom late spring/early summer. I have bachelor buttons and nigella that overwintered as seedlings in the big garden too. 

Other seeds started in the basement: parsley, flowers, old tomato seeds, purple coneflowers, old 4 o'clock seed, creeping thyme (up), eggplant, alpine strawberries. (A short list of what I can remember)