29 March 2011

Seed Starting 2011...Revisited

About a week ago, I wrote about starting seeds in Sphagnum peat moss - that doesn't seem like a good idea now.  It's been four weeks since I planted the seeds - probably 8 flats of 18 seeds each - and no more than 5 have sprouted.  About 9 days ago I planted some of the same seeds in the garden and they have sprouted, so it must be the peat moss.

As I do every year, I felt like I was getting a head start on summer gardening, and as always, I get behind - I don't feel that way this year, though.  I'm happy about my new trellises and I've enjoyed working in the yard this spring.  Some of my landscaping plans are coming together and my vegetable garden is coming along. 

I'll definitely have to come up with a different plan for seed starting, but I really won't need to do that until next spring.

27 March 2011

Spring Has Sprung

I was walking around the yard the other day and was surprised at how many things had started growing again.  We've had a lot of consistently warm weather this spring - I was expecting it to get cold again or one last freeze, but it looks like it's here to stay.

Queen's Tears Bromeliad
We had our second bad winter in a row, and it looked like it killed a lot of things - but that doesn't always seem to be the case now that it's warmed up.  The most obvious mistake I made when posting obituaries for my plants was including the Queen's Tears bromeliad.  As awful as it looks, I noticed the other day that it starting to bloom.  This plant has always had odd behavior - the last couple of years it has bloomed very late in the year, so the fact that it's blooming now (which I think is the right time) is odd too.  I remember thinking that my bromeliads died last year too, but I was wrong again.

Knockout Rose
Whenever there are free plants posted on craigslist, if it's something I might want, I do my best to get it, even if I don't know what my plans are for it yet.  Last fall someone was giving away knockout roses.  I spent part of my Friday evening fighting traffic, digging them up from their yard and getting them home.  I kept them in pots over the winter and kept them sheltered some.  I was a little concerned they might not make it through the winter, but they did and they're starting to bloom.  Now we have to decide where we're going to put them in the yard.

Since my bog experiment failed in the fall, I've had my carnivorous plants in pots, sitting in a container of water.  The pitcher plants look bad, but I thought they would be ok.  I also got some Venus flytraps and sundews in a strange internet trade - I repotted those and put them in a little water and when winter came, I put them in a sheltered place.  The flytraps stayed green through the cold, but the sundews appear to have died.  I got a close look at them the other day and the flytraps are flourishing - and the sundews appear to be making a comeback.  That's a good thing to know.  I plan to create a permanent bog garden, hopefully by the end of the summer, and I'll add these plants to it.

21 March 2011

Seed Starting 2011

I try to be a frugal gardener, and I know it works against me sometimes - I'm hoping it doesn't for my latest plan.  I've never bought special seed starting mix or peat pellets - I've tried to mix up something on my own that I hope would have things seeds need.  This spring I decided to try something simpler.

I've had a large bag of sphagnum peat moss ever since I repotted my carnivorous plants last year.  I decided to try using an all-peat mix to start seed in this time.  I figured it should be good because, peat can hold a lot of moisture and that's what seed need most of all.

The first thing you need to know about working with peat is that it takes a while to prepare - It's very fluffy and you need to let it soak up as much water as you can.  I usually take a large pot of water and add peat to it, continually submerging handfuls of it until it's completely soaked.  I was a little disappointed in the peat I had - it wasn't as fine and uniform as I remembered.  There were a lot of stems and other large pieces, which I tried to pull out as I came across them.

Once I had the seed flats filled with moist peat, I buried my seed in it - I had a variety of them, from flower to vegetables, slow to fast germinating and reliable and unreliable.  It's been almost three weeks for most of the seeds and the only one that has sprouted is the squash - one of the reliable ones.  I'm wondering if the peat was packed to tightly, or if they were affected by the frost we had one night, or the opposite - the driveway where the seeds flats are, has gotten hot with highs near 80 degrees recently.

The only thing I can do about it now is try to learn from it and move on.  Since our last expected frost date is a little more than two weeks away, I went ahead and sowed seeds directly in the garden.  With any luck they'll sprout and my summer gardening will have begun.