Monday, February 23, 2009

Becoming a Seed Addict

This weekend I received my order of seed packs from Swallowtail Garden Seeds. My husband just rolled his eyes when I tried to explain to him that by buying seeds I was really saving him money. Though he wasn't convinced, and in reality, saving money isn't the main reason I bought the seeds. The fact is, I'm finding this whole seed-starting stuff quite fun.

Last year, I thought it would be a good way to grow a few Impatiens (I just can't stomach paying so much money for annuals), and while shopping for the annuals (Sunflower, Impatiens, Pelargonium, Cosmos), I grabbed packets of Echinacea, Columbine, and Foxglove. The Impatiens I grew were a bit of a let down (they are Impatiens, afterall), the Pelargoniums were quite lovely and overwintering in my basement, the Cosmos took over, and the Sunflowers were show stoppers. But the real surprise was the Echinacea; almost every seed germinated, and I got three large plants, two of which bloomed from August, well into November.

This year, I'm trying to branch out a bit (ha, ha), and bought more perennials and some veggie and herb seeds. I'm discovering, no doubt, as countless thousands have before me, a wonderful satisfaction in watching life develop from the tiniest speck.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Mid Winter Desperation

A few days ago we had a bit of a thaw and about 2-3 feet of snow melted away from the yard. I found this Fescue (Festuca, Elijah's Blue) peeking out from underneath some melting snow. It's impressive how blue and healthy the grass was, despite being buried under snow and certainly getting pelted with ice melt, since it's at the end of our driveway.

Owen rediscovered his "Sanbox Table" that I built for him last year. He pretty much spent the entire summer, dumping the sand out of the box, onto the porch, but there were a couple toys he hadn't seen in a while so he was pretty happy.
In my desperation/longing for flowers, I was suckered into buying this mini-rose from the grocery store (which is generally frowned upon, because they're so difficult to keep healthy). It had a ton of orange-tipped yellow buds. I'm still not very good at the close-ups with my camera. It's a Canon Powershot and doesn't allow for much manual tinkering. It seems to have a hard time focusing on the foreground, instead of the background, especially when there's a lot of light. I may be lobbying the hubby for a better camera next Christmas.

I was trying to get a picture of my little seed starting operation that I just placed over the heating grate, but Shadow got curious and stepped right into the picture, which actually made the shot a lot more interesting. I put these New Guinea impatiens seeds in soil about two weeks ago, and there's been no sign of life (the packet says they should germinate in 3 days). I don't have a heat mat, so I figured it was just too cold in the basement for them to get going. I'm hoping they will sprout now that they're in a warmer location. Of course, they must survive the two dogs and a 4-year old.

P.S. If you're reading this blog because you get an email, you should really go to the Web site. Apparently, none of the links work in the emails.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dogs, Dirt and Healthy Kids

Put away the bleach, get out the shovel! I now have even more support for dragging my 4-year old outside to play with mudpies while I weed. According to a recent article in the New York Times, we can now forget washing our kids' hands after they've been playing in dirt! There's this "Hygeine Hypothesis" that basically supposes that when a baby stick things in his/her mouths, it's a test drive of the immune system. The more exposure to bacteria, viruses, and worms, the baby has, the healthier that child will be as an adult!

I had heard/read before that people who grew up on farms or who had lots of pets, actually had fewer illnesses, so I felt justified in having two dogs (I was doing it for health!). And all teachers know that the first few years of teaching are pretty much spent with a cold, then after this immunity building period, it's rare to get sick again. This has also been somewhat supported by evidence that children that went to daycare are less sick in elementary school than children that stayed at home.

So get lots of pets, don't clean your house, let your kids roll around in the dirt, and don't feel guilty for sending your child to daycare!

Monday, February 2, 2009


Last week I started seeds in the basement. I know it's a little early, since the safe frost free date is around May 1st here. The thing is, last year I started the seeds later and was really unhappy with the performance of some of my annuals. I mean, they bloomed like crazy, but in like, September. Not to mention the fact, that the frost free date last year was more like April 15th. So I was hoping to get a bit more size/blooms by starting my seeds a little earlier this year.
I think the seedlings in the picture above are white Sweet Alyssum, and are ridiculously easy to grow (probably could have waited on these). They were a great filler and bloomed all summer, well into late October/November.

In other sowing activing, I'm experimenting with Wintersowing (great Web site). I tried a few kinds of seeds, Cleome, Delphinium, Alyssum, Chives, Sweet Pea. Apparently, you can start just about anything that's native to temperate zones this way. I've read that Delphinium in particular are suited to this type of sowing because they need a period of cold to germinate. For fun, google "pot ghetto," which is what you call your winter sown flats (a rare instance in which gardeners are not PC). Some people sow hundreds of pots of seeds this way with great success.

My pot ghetto is pretty tiny. More of a pot tenement.


P.S. Here's a pic of the last days of some forced blooms I splurged on. It was really nice to have the blooms, so no doubt, I will be experimenting with forcing bulbs next Winter.