On January 11, 2023

It’s time to buy seeds

By Mary Ellen Shaw

Once in awhile during the winter months I like to look forward instead of “back.” So this column will concentrate on flowers and veggies fresh from the garden. I don’t think that I am the only one who misses playing in the dirt this time of year. 

Of course, if you are a skier you will want to continue schussing down the mountain at the same time that I am playing in my gardens! The way the weather has been lately maybe we can both do what makes us happy…you, up on the mountain and me, down in the valley!

January is usually the month when local stores have seed sales. I pick a cold day and head out with my list to stock up for the growing season. There is nothing like looking at the pictures on the seed packets to warm me up as I dream about seeing the real thing in just a few months.

Stores can’t carry all the seeds that shoppers are looking for so catalogs are always my next choice. I prefer to turn actual pages and not look at internet sites. But I definitely resort to the latter if I can’t find what I am looking for. I recommend purchasing seeds at this time of year as some types sell out quickly. I think pandemic buying is still going on. I purchase extra packets of the seeds that are the most important to me. Not every seed will germinate and some that come up will get munched on by the critters who visit our gardens. When that happens re-planting will need to be done. That is no time to go looking for seeds!

Last year I grew both green and red leaf lettuce strictly in boxes. I bought a few packets of each type and planted new seeds every couple of weeks. That method produced lettuce continuously into the fall months. My handy husband, Peter, designed the boxes several years ago and what began as a “two box operation” has grown to four boxes. They are made of pine wood and are about 3 feet long and 2 feet wide. They are attached to metal legs and sit about 3 feet off the ground. A preservative that is safe for contact with food provides protection for the wood.

A favorite vegetable of ours is Red Russian kale. I always buy two seed packets as a portion of the first planting usually gets partially gnawed on when it comes up. Apparently somebody else’s garden is their next stop as they eventually move on and nothing else is our garden is touched. That makes me happy! This type of kale is good is soups, omelets and as chips.

I wish I had more room in our veggie garden to grow everything we like. But I grow what can be picked for the longest period of time and let local farmers provide us with everything else!

When it comes to flower seeds I look for those that I won’t be able to find as actual plants when I visit a garden center in the summer. Blue and apricot statice and mixed colors of straw flowers are my old faithfuls. I start those seeds in mid-April by putting them in trays containing individual cells. The trays come with a clear dome that I can remove as the seeds mature. I place the trays on window shelves that my husband made for me. They rest on brackets in east and south windows. The plants will be ready to put in the ground by Memorial Day. The flowers can be dried and enjoyed indoors in a pretty vase all winter.

My seed shopping list always includes several varieties that do well when planted directly in the ground in late May. They are: calendulas, zinnias, bachelor buttons and cosmos. Because it takes a couple of months for them to blossom they are at their peak late in the summer when many of the perennials have gone by. These flowers allow color to continue in the gardens and that is always a welcome sight.

So get your “spring fix” and do some seed shopping. It will make a cold winter day seem a whole lot warmer.

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