Thursday, January 19, 2012

Seeds of Wisdom

I’m an advocate of organic mulch to help control weeds, preserve moisture and improve the soil as the mulch decomposes.  How then are we suppose to plant seeds without undoing all our mulching work?

  • ·       Only plant perennials.

·        Use only plant sets from a nursery.

·        Use only plant sets you’ve grown over the winter.

·        Or, try the following.

  1. Once the danger of frost is over, purchase the little peat starter pots or make your own out of newspaper.
  2. Set them side by side in an old rimmed cookie sheet.
  3. Fill each to within ½ inch of the top with potting soil.
  4. Gently water this mixture.  Allow water to stand in the tray to about ½ inch.
  5. Check the next day to make sure the pot and soil is damp.
  6. Plant two seeds in each pot following the directions for that variety.
  7. Move a small area of mulch aside with your hand.
  8. Dig down in the soil to half the depth of the pot.
  9. Water the hole.
  10. Set the pot gently into the hole.
  11. Make sure the soil is pushed against the side of the pot.
  12. Push mulch back around the pot but not over the potting soil.
  13. When the seeds sprout to about 1 inch, pull the weakest one in each pot.  If done gently, they can be transplanted to another area or a flower pot.  Otherwise, dispose of them.
  14. Keep the little plants damp (not soggy) by watering gently so as not to wash out the seed/sprout. 
  15. If there is going to be a hard rain, you may want to lay an old sheet over the pots until it’s over.
  16. Once the plants are taller, leafed out, and established, brush more mulch around them.
A few additional hints for those of you who drool over your new plant catalogs this time of the year:  Some vendors list the number of seeds to a particular order.  Do you want 1,000 of the same variety?  Knowing the number of seeds in a packet allows you to get the most for your needs.  You can always share seeds, although, not everyone will have your same needs and wants.  Most local nurseries carry a small variety of the most common seed varieties.  Seeds are much more economical than buying plant sets IF you actually use them all.  Make sure your seed supply vendor sells only new seeds.  A packet of old seeds may not be so cheap if only a few sprout. 

Here are a few of my favorite annuals easily grown from seed:  Four O’clock, Alyssum, Phlox, Nicotina, Cleome, California poppy, Forget-Me-Not, Cornflower, Cosmo, Nasturtium, Marigold, and Zinnia.  A garden filled with these would be a beautiful summer-long cutting garden.

I turn to Henry Ward Beecher for this seed of wisdom, "As for marigolds, poppies, hollyhocks, and valorous sunflowers, we shall never have a garden without them, both for their own sake, and for the sake of old-fashioned folks, who used to love them."

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