Column, Looking Back

Looking Forward: Flower and veggie seeds

If you are a gardener you are probably ready to put the snowy days behind you and spend some time “playing in the dirt.”

I have already purchased my veggie and flower seeds and just looking at the pictures on the packets puts me in a happy place!

Winter is an ideal time to purchase seeds. The earlier you shop the better your chances of getting what you want. Local garden centers have a nice selection of all the popular choices. But it’s always fun to try growing one or two items that are not among your usual selections. Browsing through catalogs or searching the various internet websites is a great way to pass a winter day. Just seeing all the bright colored flowers will make your day brighter.

If you sow annual flower seeds directly into your garden it will take a couple of months for them to mature. That time frame works well because they can fill in the empty spaces where bulb flowers and early perennials have died off.

I have a few favorite seeds that I sow around Memorial Day. One is the Cut and Come Again Zinnia. It does just what its name implies! A new flower will grow at the point where you made a cut. Zinnias come in many colors and will enhance the color palette of your garden.

Nasturtiums are another great option. There are several color choices for this flower and the petals can be used in salads if the seeds haven’t been treated in any way. My other favorites are strawflowers and statice, both of which can both be dried and enjoyed inside all winter.

Growing flowers from seed allows you to keep your garden full while only spending a minimal amount of money.

When buying veggie seeds check the “days until harvest” and in some cases you can extend your enjoyment of them for an additional 3-4 weeks. Carrots and cucumbers are two examples where different varieties lengthen the harvest time.

If you start your seeds inside you can expedite the bloom time. You can grow them in something as simple as a yogurt cup filled with seed starting mix placed on a window sill. Or you can get more elaborate and use a heated germination mat and a grow light. The latter option will give you a more hardy plant that isn’t “leggy.” But I place small pots on shelves in front of a window and re-pot the plants into larger pots before they can get leggy. That works for me. Once the plants are “hardened off” outside and placed in the garden they will soon catch up in size to those that were grown more elaborately.

Winter is also a good time to think about what didn’t work for you last year and how to solve that problem. Having your crops eaten by deer, rabbits or groundhogs is something most of us face. Fencing in your garden area doesn’t mean that a critter won’t dig under the fence and make short work of your veggies. One solution to that problem is to lay 2-foot-wide chicken wire along the perimeter of your garden fence. Use garden staples to hold the wire in place. You can cover the chicken wire with dirt or mulch if you don’t want it visible.

We have rabbits in our yard and they think that lettuce grown in the ground is a salad bar for them! I now grow lettuce in raised boxes that are about 3 feet high. It makes picking the lettuce easy and chicken wire laid over the top of the boxes prevents squirrels from burying their “treasures” inside and disturbing the contents.

Have fun seed shopping and think spring…unless you are a skier. If you are, I know that you don’t want to see the snow disappear.

Maybe it can remain up on the mountain and then both you and I will be happy!

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