Monday, February 16, 2015

Still Winter, but Dreaming of Spring

It looks like this is going to be one of those awkward years when the plants and the weather aren't quite in sync. Daffodils began blooming in my yard over the weekend, but there is a drop to 11 degrees F expected on Wednesday. That drop in temperature will make a mess of my daffodils. The pink camellia blossoms aren't going to take that drop well, either. Wilted, drooping, soggy, browned flowers definitely are not part of the spring dream!

The hopeful news is that the tips of trout-lily leaves are beginning to emerge by the back fence. I use the blooming of those plants as a signal to begin planting peas, and then a week or two later the potatoes. Some years, the flowers of my trout lilies are up in abundance by the last week in February, but it may be the first week in March before I see many of those flowers this year.

Those two plantings -- the peas and potatoes -- begin the cascade of springtime activity in my garden. Lettuces, spinach, beets, and more cool-season crops will be seeded directly into the soil in that same time of beginning, and from there the planting flows fairly steadily on, right through May.

While I am waiting on the trout lilies, I have tiny plants to tend indoors. Tomato seedlings have begun their unfolding in the flat that I started on Feb. 8, a little more than a week ago. Tending those, and then the peppers and eggplants that will share the flat as they germinate and grow (always taking a little longer to emerge than the tomatoes...), will keep my gardening-energies engaged in the meantime.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Almost Seed-Starting Time

Well, it's almost time to start seeds of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants here in my area, so of course I've jumped the gun. The weather this past weekend was glorious, and I spent part of it out on the back deck setting up the first flat of those long-time-to-maturity vegetables. I added some tomatillo seeds, too.

I wrote a guest-post about seed-starting for UGA's Community Gardening blog that was posted last week, and I included two links near the end for some UGA publications about seed starting. Any beginners at seed-starting might want to check out those links, because the explanations (and illustrations!) they contain are more complete than I could fit into a blog post.

The usual garden vegetable seeds are fairly easy to germinate, partly because they are for annual plants; the seeds have simple needs for temperature, light, and water that are easy to fulfill by mimicking springtime indoors. Seeds for shrubs and other perennial plants often have additional requirements for aging, for cold-storage (mimicking winter!), and for having traveled through an animal's guts, and this winter I have been working with seeds for jujube bushes that are in this category of persnickety seeds.
Bag with 4 jujube seeds in sphagnum, stapled to instructions.

My friend Eddie brought me four jujube fruits last fall, and I have been following instructions I found online through SF Gate to prepare those seeds for spring. After eating the fruits (tasted like apples!), I soaked the seeds for about an hour, then scrubbed the remaining stuck-on fruit off the seeds. Then, I placed the seeds in a paper bag, in the dark, to dry and "finish ripening" for a couple of months. Then, I put the seeds in a ziploc bag with some damp sphagnum moss, and put that whole shebang into the fridge.

The plastic bag is stapled to the brown bag the seeds "ripened" in with a note that says the seeds can come out of the fridge anytime after February 10. That's this week! There are several more steps ahead to get those seeds ready to germinate, but I am hopeful that the process will work. Wish me luck?

Friday, February 6, 2015

That Seed-Buying Time of Year

If your inbox looks anything like mine at this time of year, it is crammed with messages from seed companies that are hoping we all will  buy more seeds. This year, a great little ad came to my email from Park seed company that hints at how much money we can all save by buying seeds.

The ad reads:

Home Gardens Save Money

On average, a family that spends $50 on seeds and fertilizer will produce $1,250 in produce!

While I totally agree that home gardens can be a great source of less-expensive, healthy food for families, I have known people with quite small gardens to spend this much and harvest much less. Hopefully, though, all of my gardening friends have developed cost-effective plans to make the most out of whatever space is available for their gardens.

One of my gardening friends and I have worked out our annual seed-buying deal that saves us both a little money. This year, I will be placing our joint order for seeds from Sandhill Preservation, and she will be in charge of the order from Baker Creek/Rare Seeds. We will be getting together this weekend to finalize and place our orders. This is always a great way to spend time with a gardening friend!

I am not ordering as many seed packets as usual, because I have a surprisingly large supply of seeds in the fridge that are still new enough to have good-enough germination rates. As seeds age, they lose viability, and they can get so old that they just won't grow. That aging-time varies with crop type, but I seem to have bought a lot of seeds in the past couple of years. Very few packets have date stamps further back than 2012.

This weekend is forecast to be warm and sunny, with highs up around 60 degrees F. I plan to spend some of that beautiful weather pruning berry-canes, the persimmon, and the plum. Hope that everyone else has a great, garden-filled weekend!

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