Column, Looking Back

Starting to seek out seeds

By Mary Ellen Shaw

Just in case you aren’t an enthusiast of snow covered ground, let’s look ahead this week to spending time in the garden. When the second half of January arrives my thoughts turn to playing in the dirt. Granted it will be about four months before I can even consider spending time in the garden but it’s a perfect time to think about what to plant. Thoughts of picking fresh veggies to accompany dinners and cutting flowers for bouquets are great mood boosters on a cold winter day.

This is also the time of year to watch for seed sales at local garden centers. I love to pick a cold day to go seed shopping. I make an alphabetical list of the seeds I want. It’s easier to find them that way and an added bonus is that you won’t forget any thanks to your list.

Seed catalogues begin arriving at our house around Thanksgiving time. Local stores will probably not have every seed that you want to purchase so check out catalogues or websites for the best price and place your order early. That way you won’t be disappointed if a pandemic shortage comes your way. As they say, “The early bird catches the worm” or in this case gets the seeds!

Over the years I have learned to buy an extra packet of seeds if there are small quantities inside. It’s possible that all the seeds you plant won’t germinate or the plants can get eaten as they begin to grow. I have had to do a second planting for both those reasons and was glad I could go to my seed packet box and pull out another packet.

If you are handy, or can find someone who is, make a seed packet box to keep them organized. My handy husband, Peter, built a box “made to measure” for the packets I buy every year. It has slots with a divider for every packet and just like with my shopping list I put the seeds in the box alphabetically. That way I don’t have to hunt for the one I need.

When planning your veggie garden you might want to choose veggies that freeze well. You get to enjoy them all winter that way. Among my favorites that meet that requirement are zucchini, kale, beets and carrots. I puree the zucchini and freeze that in amounts needed to make bread. After cooking the kale, beets and carrots I dry them between paper towels and freeze them in portions that will accompany our meals.

When it comes to flower seeds I like to buy what is not available in plant form at garden centers. Some can be sown directly into the ground in late May and they will come into bloom when most of the perennials have gone by. “Cut-and-come-again” zinnias are one of my favorites. As the name implies you can cut off flowers for a bouquet and another zinnia will grow from that spot. Calendulas are another favorite to sow directly in the soil.

If you want to start flowers from seed indoors two good options are statice and strawflowers. They grow rather slowly so getting a head start inside is a plus. Both flowers can be dried at the end of the season and enjoyed inside in the winter. Apricot and blue statice are especially attractive. Strawflowers come in both a tall and dwarf size with a nice variety of color choices. I start the seeds indoors in mid-April and that works well for me. They should gradually be exposed to sun and wind for an in-ground planting in late May after all frost dangers have passed.

So if you want to get your “veggie and flower fix” head to the seed department of a local garden center and the 2022 garden season will have officially begun! While you are there you might as well get all the supplies you will need to grow your seeds indoors. Leaving the store with all my “goodies” always puts a smile on my face even if snowflakes hit me on the way to my car!

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