Hope Jahren has helped me fall even more deeply with seeds and the natural world this week. Our book group just started to read her best selling book “Lab Girl.” Lab Girl is like two books in one….a marvelous account of her life as a woman in science AND a romantic ode to nature that waxes poetic about seeds and trees and vines that want to climb.
Here’s her excerpt about seeds:
“A seed knows how to wait. Most seeds wait for at least a year before starting to grow; a cherry seed can wait for a hundred years with no problem. What exactly each seed is waiting for is known only to that seed. Some unique trigger-combination of temperature-moisture-light and many other things is required to convince a seed to jump off the deep end and take its chance—to take its one and only chance to grow.
A seed is alive while it waits. Every acorn on the ground is just as alive as the three-hundred-year-old oak tree that towers over it. Neither the seed nor the old oak is growing; they are both just waiting.”
I love seeds. I love to walk up and down the aisles of the BBB Seed warehouse and touch the hundreds of thousands of seeds that are there, full of potential. To imagine just a single packet grown out and burst into bloom. Hope Jahren has given me yet another vision: all those seeds there. Alive. As alive as the trees outdoors. Alive and waiting. Waiting patiently and calmly.
As a gardener I often say “Thank God.” The growing legality of growing marijuana has meant a proliferation of stores that sell amazing tools and new agricultural products that make gardening easier and cheaper. Despite living in Colorado, I’ve never been interested in smoking pot. Even as a decadent college student I thought “Why smoke when you can drink?” I helped a friend trim some of her high end organic marijuana grown outside and declined the offer for some of the product. But I am endlessly interested in marijuana growing techniques. I have three products that might not have been available if it weren’t for the early mmj growers.
My EZ Clone aeroponic plant propagator.
These used to cost $400 but I got mine for $50 off of craigslist from a guy in a souped-up muscle car who had had dreams of getting rich by growing clones but lost interest when that didn’t happen overnight. Now you can buy new cloners for much less than $100 from Amazon or Home Depot if you aren’t brave enough to venture into a grow shop. These simple machines spray warm mist on the roots of cuttings and cause hardwood and softwood cuttings to grow roots in a very short time—days! This is my favorite way to root shrubs, tomatoes, small fruit plants and even roses. Should work great for trees too. I can have well-rooted plants in just a couple of weeks.
My LED grow light.
The first indoor light I tried were the big sodium ones that provided enough light to take indoor plants all the way to bloom. That was amazing but also an energy hog. This year for indoor seed starting, I’m loving my Costco LED shop light that is half the size of my old shop lights, lightweight, and uses almost no electricity.
My liquid all natural growing supplements.
I still rely on kelp and Superthrive as growth stimulants, but the organic, natural fertilizer concentrates produce some of the best growth and production I’ve seen, especially in tomatoes. Lots of research went into getting ideal growth out of marijuana plants. Marijuana and tomatoes are quite similar in plant needs. If you can grow one, you can grow the other.
There’s nothing like old fashioned common sense for growing using compost and time-honored natural techniques. But a few high-tech products can make your garden spectacular.
Scarlet Nantes Carrot is a standard market carrot that has a long, cylindrical shape and a rich reddish-orange color. The flavor is sweet and delicious. Roots are fine-grained, containing almost no core. High moisture content makes this variety perfect for juicing. Carrots can reach up to 7 inches long. To prevent diseases, rotate planting location every season.
Light: Full sun. Will tolerate very light shade.
Water: Moderate moisture. Crusted soil can suppress germinated sprouts.
Soil: Well-drained soil with organic matter. The area needs to be free of stones.
This cool-weather crop is easily over-planted due to its fine seeds. Sow seeds directly into loose soil in early spring 2-3 weeks before last frost date. Carrots are slow to germinate, emerging in 2-4 weeks. Cover seeds with a ¼ inch of soil—no more than ½ an inch. Lightly water seeds every day for best germination. Once sprouts emerge thinning is critical to reducing competition. Thin seedlings to 1/2 – 1-inch spacing. Best time for thinning is when soil is damp. Plant seeds every 2-3 weeks throughout midsummer for continuous harvest.
Start harvesting as soon as carrots have reached the desired size (up to 7 inches). Try pulling up one at a time to check the size. Watering the area before harvest can make pulling by hand easier. Harvest by mid-September to avoid pest damage.
Carrots are a great source of fiber, potassium and vitamin A.
Carrot greens can be used in soup stock, pesto, curries or tea.
Common pest: carrot rust fly
British gardeners plant sage around the area to repel the carrot fly
https://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.png00Mike Wadehttps://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.pngMike Wade2017-02-09 14:41:322021-02-11 13:58:24February Plant of the Month – Carrots
Most of us are still languishing in winter, looking for signs of crocus sprouting or swelling buds on trees, but the deserts of the US are ramping up for their big annual show. When wildflower lovers need a dose of Spring, they don’t go to a beach in Mexico or Hawaii, they head for the desert. Many of the flowers in the desert bloom in the early cool season (February to Early May), then revert into dormancy during the heat of summer. Naturally there’s a website for reporting wildflower sightings. My favorite wildflower website for the Southwest is http://www.desertusa.com/wildflo/wildupdates.html where you’ll find regular updates of rainfall and sightings of emerging plants and first bloom,
Forecasts for wildflowers are made from meteorological reports of rainfall and snowfall and sometimes soil moisture. It’s pretty basic…a wet winter means higher seed germination rates and more wildflowers.
Here’s what’s coming first in the deserts:
First bluebonnet (lupine) in Texas Big Bend National Park now.
What it will look like in southern Texas soon.
For your own wildflowers in your yard, you can tweak Nature a bit if you haven’t had much rain or snow this year. A little extra hand watering on your wildflowers if during dry spells this winter will boost your Spring bloom.
We all know it’s a good idea to grow from seed. Every winter I fantasize about the amazing garden I could have if I just got started earlier. And every year I somehow end up buying plants that I know I could have started on my own with a little more planning.
This year will be different she says. To strengthen my resolve and not fall into winter doldrums, here’s my list of Why Grow from Seed.
Native plants are better for pollinators, better for the environment, and more likely to survive and thrive in our yard.
There’s only one way to be sure our plants haven’t been treated with pesticides that will hurt pollinators or poison your food. Grow it ourselves from seed. It’s also the best way to keep down unwanted pests like whitefly and thrips that thrive in crowded Big Ag type greenhouses and then come to live in our home gardens.
If we want a standard garden that looks like every other garden on the block, we buy plants where everybody else buys them. Beautiful but kinda conformist. Growing from seed gives us a nearly infinite palette of possibilities. I love having a garden where someone stops and asks “What is That amazing flower?”
This is the obvious Number One reason to grow from seed. For just a couple bucks we get dozens or hundreds or thousands of plants. The gardeners at the Denver Botanic Gardens often let some reseeding annuals seed themselves all over until their acreage. Last year snapdragons were allowed to grow wherever the wind and birds planted the seeds. We can get the same effect at home. One $2.50 packet of snapdragons has over 14,000 seeds. That’s a lot of adorable low-care flowers to have throughout the garden.
And why do we want more flowers? My first impulse is because they’re just so pretty. But as I happened to read on the front page of our website this morning in big red letters:
“Remember, the more flowers a garden can offer throughout the year, the greater the number of bees and other pollinating insects it will attract and support.”
https://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.png00Mike Wadehttps://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.pngMike Wade2017-01-20 12:07:122021-02-22 14:09:10Why Grow From Seed
Organic leeks were $3.99 a pound in my grocery store this week. I love leeks because they add a more rich and complex flavor to soups and sauces than onions do. They are more expensive than onions but just as easy to grow. The only challenge for gardeners in areas with winter is that leeks have a long growing season and it’s not as easy to find leek seedlings for sale come planting time. In January, you can get a head start on leeks as this is an ideal time to start some seedlings to transplant this spring.
The ideal germination conditions for leek seeds are about 70 degrees in moist soil. They will germinate in cooler temperatures but may take a few more weeks to emerge.
Even though the seeds are small, germinate them in containers at least four inches deep rather than in a very shallow tray. We gently push the seeds about half an inch deep into the light potting mix. The seedlings don’t need individual cells so you can grow them in one big container. Their roots will intertwine but easily tease apart without breaking come planting time.
Once the leeks are growing they will continue to need light but easily handle cooler conditions if you need your indoor lights for something else. An unheated cold frame or a makeshift hoop house works great.
Come planting time, we plant the baby seedlings into six inch deep trenches (we want lots of long white stems). For now, just get those seeds started. The only thing to remember is not to let the soil dry out.
I always grow more leeks than I’m going to eat and leave them in the garden to flower. The leek flowers are beautiful and attract butterflies and bees!
https://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Get-A-Head-Start-on-Leeks.jpg300300Mike Wadehttps://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.pngMike Wade2017-01-16 14:16:102021-03-17 16:57:26Get a head start on leeks
It’s that time of year when I nominate plants for this year’s Garden Awards. All Fall I’ve been admiring one plant that is a “crossover” plant able to be a contender in both the “Tough and able to handle the absolute worst soil and little water” category AND a nominee in the “Aren’t You Pretty” category. That stellar plant this year is Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum). It gets extra kudos for being a late-season nectar and pollen source for bees and butterflies too.
The flowers are beautiful little white stars. Even as they turn to green seeds pods, they are still attractive enough to put in a vase. I’ve never seen any bugs or pests or disease on the chives…probably because they do smell like garlic.
Pungent aroma is one reason they aren’t a perfect garden flower. The greens are edible just like garden chives (and known in Asian cooking as Chinese chives). The flavor is more garlicky than oniony. They are lovely thrown in a stir fry or sauteed and served in egg or tofu dishes.
Now full disclosure requires I tell the other downside of garlic chives: they make a lot of seeds. And they love to reseed in rocks and crevices of garden walls. I deal with this by dead-heading the seed heads in about October before the black seeds drop. While this can be a bother in an irrigated flower garden, it’s not a problem at all in a tough xeric area where there’s not much water anyway.
You can direct seed the chives or start them and transplant. The only extra requirement they have is that they need dark to germinate well….so sprinkle some soil over the seeds. Most of the time the chives overwinter or reseed. They grow in clumps about a foot tall and the flowers are one-two inches wide…depending on your water and soil fertility. If you have sun and moist soil they grow big and spread quickly. But part shade is fine. So is very dry or heavy clay soil. The plants will be smaller, but still impressive.
Yes, that’s what the garlic chives were this year: impressive. Tough plants and pretty.
For gardeners foolish enough to live where winter takes hold and the ground freezes, the time between first frost and last frost can be very long. Some gardeners are wise enough to welcome the break from the work of the garden and enjoy the natural flow of the seasons. Others like me start longing for a greenhouse or dream of living in warm tropical climates. I fantasize about building a mobile greenhouse I could drive down south to grow all winter and drive back to Colorado next Spring. I mourn the death of geraniums in beautiful pots and the brown frozen leaves of basil.
Before you lug dozens of plants into your living room where they mostly suffer until they succumb to low light and pests, make a plan for how to garden your indoor area.
If you have good indoor southern exposure…
Blooming plants like geranium, Hibiscus, Bougainvillea and Mandevilla will put on winter-long displays of flowers. Often by January, the dry air and lack of circulation will cause aphid explosions, and you’ll need to give the plants a quick shower or deal with the aphids in some other way before they get completely disgusting. Fragrant plants like rosemary will also thrive and even bloom if you keep them well-watered. Plants that didn’t need much water outdoors have different needs indoors and will probably need to be watered twice a week.
Low light windows…
Winter is the time to move cyclamen and African violets out of the direct winter sun to the north or east windows to keep them happy. Begonias also do well in lower light.
Cuttings of coleus bring in lots of foliage color. Coleus plants are so attractive in pots but expensive to buy. Simple jars of water will keep the coleus happy and grow roots so you have plants next Spring.
The rosemary is in the southern window. You can harvest the thyme from outdoors all winter as long as you can push aside leaves or snow. Tender herbs like basil and oregano are another story. I haven’t had much luck bringing them indoors…they bolt or get buggy. I have had great luck seeding narrow windowsill pots densely and enjoying the young leaves as microgreens.
Amaryllis are great to start now. Setting aside a few bulbs from Fall plantings can occupy your gardeners’ heart for weeks in January and February. Not all bulbs force so there is some experimentation here and some bulbs will need a cooling period in your frig or cold garage. But little daffodils inside in late January give great joy.
Make a mental note now of what spring flowering trees and shrubs there are in your yard or neighborhood. In late winter after a warm spell, you can see the new buds swell on woody stems. Cut those stems and bring them indoors.
Winter doesn’t have to be long and gray. You can garden inside all season long.
https://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.png00Sandy Swegelhttps://bbbseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/BBB-Seed-logo-with-tagline.pngSandy Swegel2016-10-28 14:54:222021-02-23 10:29:09Garden and Grow Flowers all Winter Long
One way to design your garden is to plan ahead, make sketches and get all of your seeds started indoors 8 weeks before frost. Another way, for those of us not quite so organized, is to add a plant you absolutely fall in love with, no matter what the time of year. Lupines fit this latter category for me. Until I see them bloom, I forget how amazing they are. When they come into bloom, I am awestruck. They are so unusual and big and beautiful and colorful. I envy those in New Hampshire who went last week to the Sugar Hill Lupine Festival where you could ride horse-drawn wagons through fields of lupine. The festival continues this weekend if you live nearby. Friends sent photos of lupines against the sea in Cape Cod and I knew it was time to get the packets of seeds of lupine that I’ve had unopened since February.
June is probably a little late to get flowers for this year from seed, but it is perfect timing for growing big plants that will put out big flowers next June. Even if you already have some lupine growing, it is a good time to start some more. Lupines are biennial or short-lived perennials so you need to keep starting new plants if they aren’t seeding themselves around. They germinate pretty easily especially if you give them a cold stratification or just soak them overnight in warm water before seeding. Lupines are easy to grow. They like moist areas but tolerate drought.
There are good reasons to grow lupine other than their drop-dead gorgeousness. Permaculturists value lupine as nitrogen fixers and phosphorus accumulators. Bees and other nectar-eating pollinators value the abundant nectar from lupines. Lacewings like to lay eggs on them. Birds eat their seeds. And we feast on their beauty.
Lupines of Cape Cod, L Fulton, 2016
Perched Among the Lupines, Michael Carr of Somersworth, NH 2013
The next few weeks are crucial for new gardeners. Every year in Spring, first-time gardeners buy some seeds and dig up a garden on the first really warm weekend and sprinkle the seeds out. Then they wait. For some, within the month, weather conditions will be good and they’ll have their first garden seedlings and they will be totally hooked on the magic of gardening.
For others, something bad happens that the newbies don’t know about. They don’t realize they have to water. Or a couple of hot days come and burn the new seedlings to a crisp. Maybe the neighborhood crows watch you plant and come to eat every last pea. Sometimes the soil is cold and it’s just too early to germinate seeds. These newbie gardeners lose hope and say they just have a black thumb and give up gardening.
If you’ve had failures but are still willing to give a garden from seed a try, I have two techniques that virtually guarantee your seeds will germinate outdoors. These are especially good ideas if you’ve given up trying to grow some things because they never work for you. For years I just thought I was broccoli-impaired until I tried these hints.
First of course, you have to start your garden bed.
HOW TO START A GARDEN BED.
You can till and/or turn the soil by hand but you don’t have too if the soil is not solid concrete.
Dig out the weeds. Get the roots if you can.
Take a rake and make the soil level and a bit smoothed out.
Water soil with a soft sprayer if the soil is dry.
Sprinkle seed over the soil. How much seed and how far apart is written in the little print on the packet.
Pat the seed lightly with your hands so there is contact between the seed and the soil. Bury the seed slightly if the packet says so.
If you live in someplace humid and warm, that’s enough. Your seeds should come up.
If you live someplace dry or with fluctuating temperature or you’ve had failures in the past, try these two success techniques:
#1 ROW COVER
Lay a sheet of row cover loosely over the seeded bed. You want it nice and loose so the plants can grow and the row cover lifts with them. I use some heavy rocks to hold down the row cover so it doesn’t blow away. The row cover helps the seeds stay moist enough to germinate and raises the soil temperature a few degrees so the seeds germinate faster.
Water with the soft sprayer. Note….I water right on top of the row cover. You don’t have to lift it to water underneath often causing the seeds to float away. It’s permeable so the water makes its way through.
#2 PRE-SOAK AND PRE-GERMINATE the difficult seeds.
Seeds like peas or carrots respond well if soak them in warm water in a bowl overnight, drain them, then plant. The soaking activates the enzymes that break the seed coat and speeds up germination. If it’s a seed you really have trouble with, you can put the seeds on a wet paper towel in a baggie and wait a few days until you see the sprouts.
These two shortcuts…pre-germination and row cover…work for me all the time. And I get better germination which means I get more plants per packet of seeds and save even more money.
Click on the different category headings to find out more. You can also change some of your preferences. Note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our websites and the services we are able to offer.
Essential Website Cookies
These cookies are strictly necessary to provide you with services available through our website and to use some of its features.
We provide you with a list of stored cookies on your computer in our domain so you can check what we stored. Due to security reasons we are not able to show or modify cookies from other domains. You can check these in your browser security settings.
Google Analytics Cookies
These cookies collect information that is used either in aggregate form to help us understand how our website is being used or how effective our marketing campaigns are, or to help us customize our website and application for you in order to enhance your experience.
If you do not want that we track your visit to our site you can disable tracking in your browser here:
Other external services
We also use different external services like Google Webfonts, Google Maps, and external Video providers. Since these providers may collect personal data like your IP address we allow you to block them here. Please be aware that this might heavily reduce the functionality and appearance of our site. Changes will take effect once you reload the page.
Google Webfont Settings:
Google Map Settings:
Google reCaptcha Settings:
Vimeo and Youtube video embeds:
The following cookies are also needed - You can choose if you want to allow them: