Category Archives: Flowers

Seedling Update


Seedling setup.

It’s been a few weeks since I started my second tray of seeds.  For the most part, nature is taking its course and itty bitty versions of my favorite plants have popped up.  There are a few stinkers in the bunch though, a problem that vexes me year after year.  Why don’t some seeds germinate?

These imapatiens are some of the few that germinated out of a tray of 64.

It’s obvious that conditions are not right for the tray of impatiens I had hoped to grow.  I’m not sure where I went wrong with this one.  A few seeds seem to like the accommodations I’ve provided, but the vast majority do not.  Maybe the starting mix is too wet, or too cold.  My previous experience with starting flowers from seed was extremely successful–I grew six varieties of zinnias, they were so healthy and beautiful.  This tray of impatiens is a pitiful sight.

The good news is that veggies and herbs are thriving.  Thinking about the tomatoes and eggplants that these tiny plants will become makes me happy!  Maybe I’ve started too many plants, but I do this in case there is any trouble.  I like to have some back up plants just in case.  It’s insurance.  Inevitably, I’ll be searching out adoptive  parents for my extra seedlings come Memorial Day.

This tomato is showing some nice leaves. All tomato varieties came up with no problems.

Every day I turn the tray around because these tiny plants lean right into the sunlight.

Noticeably, eggplant and pepper seeds are taking longer than the others.  I hope they come up just fine in the next few days.  I’m trying to keep them warm by putting them on the heat vent at night.  They are getting plenty of warmth from the sun during the day.  I’ve never had a problem with these in the past, so I’m expecting them to pop up eventually.

So what’s the next step?  Well, this weekend I will be transplanting some lettuces and spinach into pots outside.  If we are threatened with hard frosts I can always haul the pots inside or cover with a blanket.

I have begun planting seeds outside.  This week my son and I put in the peas and arugula.  I hope to have the head lettuce and radishes in by the weekend as well.  It’s still cold at night here, but not too cold for these types of seeds.  They even like the cold.

Our weather in Southeastern Wisconsin has been cool, damp and rather dismal.  It’s to be expected, but I long for one of those freakishly warm April days that are just right for working outside and getting that first touch of sun on my white wintry skin.  Wouldn’t some warm sun feel good about now?  I think my plants would agree.

I’ve been taking my rosemary and lemon tree outside during the day.  They’ll need a few weeks of this to adjust to outdoor conditions.  The lemon tree has set some new buds and I’m hoping that taking it outdoors will toughen it up enough to hold onto those buds rather than dropping them like the last set.  In a few weeks I will pot it up to the next size of pot and add organic fruit fertilizer to the mix.  With any luck it might produce a lemon or two this year.  Now if I could just get some bees to come back to my yard to take care of pollinization–that lemon tree’d be all set!

A new set of lemon tree buds brings new hope that this tree may produce fruit in 2011.

I’ve always enjoyed videos that show how a seed grows (thanks to my 80’s childhood watching Sesame Street I’m sure) so here is a link to a nice example from Nova:  Teachers’ Domain: From Seed to Flower.

It’s the beginning of an exciting time of year for me.  A time of hope and expectation, a time for work and play.  It’s off to a good start!

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Seed Starting


March is here and with it comes the task of transforming tiny seeds into herbs, vegetables and flowers for my (slowly) thawing garden.

But first, a confession.  I’ve been struggling for a week to write this post.  I think that writing from an instructional point of view isn’t working for me.  Since there are so many resources available on seed starting, I’ve decided that rather than give instructions I’m just going to report my experience and forget a step by step analysis.  It just isn’t my style. 

Whew!  Now I feel free to write.

Being a visual person, I like to map my garden, I also like to map my seed trays.  This seems to work better for me than using seed markers, and it feels like less work to me.  I especially like color coding my seed tray map!

I use a different color for each type of seed.

My kids' crayons come in handy for this project.

As it turned out, the above map–while lovely–did not have the correct layout for the 72-cell trays I am using.  So I had to redo it.  Such is life. 

For this tray, I’m starting some random things that seem like they need more time than others.  This works out well because by the time these seedlings are done with this tray I’ll be ready to start some more seeds.  I have two trays and will probably use each one twice this season.  I’m growing some flowers from seed this year, and they’ll take up at least one tray on their own.

I use a standard plastic 72-cell tray.  These trays come with a drip tray that the cell insert sits in, and a lid.  It’s easy to purchase extra cell inserts as needed from my local garden center.

I always read the seed packets before starting seeds.  Here is where I can find out when to start the seeds, any special information such as planting depth, sunlight needs, etc.  Seed packets contain all the information I need to be successful. 

Seed packets for Impatiens.

The back of the seed packet is loaded with information for seed starting, transplanting, growing and harvesting.

This seed starting mix came from Gardens Alive.  I had a coupon for $25 off (I believe every catalog they send has a coupon of some sort) so I used that to order some trays and seed starting mix.  It’s just as easy to visit a local garden center or hardware store and pick up needed materials.

My seeds have come from many different sources this year.   I purchased some at the garden center, others I ordered from Johnny’s Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  I wanted to try several sources to compare, and also just because it’s fun to collect seeds from various sources.  I like the different seed packets.    It’s been fun going through the catalogs as well and receiving orders in the mail. 

Using my map I carefully put the seeds into each cell after the soaked seed starting mix was in place.

Seed starting mix works well.

 

We added water to the mix and spooned it into the tray.

 

Alternatively, you can put dry mix in the tray and then add water.

 

Once the seeds are in, the tray goes to either a sunny place or a warm place out of direct sunlight. I had one tray of each, this information is on the back of the seed packets.

 

I either put the tray in my bathroom, where it is always very warm, or if the seeds require light for germination they go next to the patio door where it is warm and sunny.  Trays in the bathroom are moved to the patio door once the sprouts emerge.

Current setup--my mini greenhouse.

 

My son and I love to peek at the seed trays every day to see what has poked through.  It’s amazing how quickly they change, sometimes they can grow an inch or more in less than 25 hours.

Here's something coming up!

 

It’s not hard to start seeds.  I’ve been doing it for a few years now and have always been pleased with the results.  It’s much more affordable than buying plants at the garden center, and there is no limit to the varieties I can grow when I start the seeds myself.  I’m not limited by what a store may have in stock.

It’s certainly possible to be a lot more scientific about this process.  That’s just not me though.  I do this by look and feel and rarely consult the numbers.  I don’t really know what the temperature is in my bathroom or how many days it takes for seeds to germinate.  I don’t really care.  (Sorry!)  If they come up, I’m happy.  I move them to bigger pots as needed and when the weather feels good, I put them outside.  I guess this goes to prove that it’s really not that complicated to grow things at home!  I just follow the directions and that seems to work.

Now, I can’t wait to get everything outside and out of my dining area.  But for at least the next 6 weeks, the seedlings and I will just be hanging out waiting for the earth outside to come alive again. 

I just finished reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and want to share this passage in which Dickon describes Spring:

“Just listen to them birds—th’ world seems full of ’em—all whistlin’ an’ pipin’,” he said. “Look at ’em dartin’ about, an’ hearken at ’em callin’ to each other. Come springtime seems like as if all th’ world’s callin’. The leaves is uncurlin’ so you can see ’em—an’, my word, th’ nice smells there is about!” sniffing with his happy turned-up nose.”

Now isn’t that nice?  It’s almost here!

Whimsy in the Garden


In Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland there is a fantastic garden scene in which the flowers sing to Alice.  The song they sing All in the Golden Afternoon has fanciful lyrics that I just love.

Little bread-and-butterflies kiss the tulips,
and the sun is like a toy balloon.
There are get up in the morning glories,
in the golden afternoon.
There are dizzy daffodils on the hillside,
strings of violets are all in tune,
Tiger lilies love the dandy lions,
in the golden afternoon,
the golden afternoon.
There are dog and caterpillars and a copper centipede,
where the lazy daisies love the very peaceful life they lead…
You can learn a lot of things from the flowers,
for especially in the month of June.
There’s a wealth of happiness and romance,
all in the golden afternoon. …
All in the golden afternoon,
the golden afternoon…

The garden inspires whimsy.  A happy little butterfly or a hoppy toad, or perhaps a glistening raindrop resting on a leaf can bring a smile to my face.  They all seem so magical, in a world of their own just like those singing flowers that Alice met.

Looking for whimsy in ordinary things helps to lighten my life’s load.  Praise God for the funny little pretty things in life.

Flowers & Succulents


My true garden love is vegetables, but I still manage to keep a few floral varieties around.  I love the different colors and textures that flowers and succulents add to the garden.  Flowers serve another purpose too: they attract beneficial insects to the garden.  God’s amazing creation works in wonderful ways!

These are the flowers that delighted us in 2010: