Sneaking a peek

Here in the St. Louis area where I live, this is the time of year when there's much to do in the garden, and the time left to do it is unknown due to variable temperatures and weather. There are trees, shrubs, perennials, and bamboo to plant and transplant. Lots of leaves to rake and drag down to the compost pile. Ponds to clean out (haven't done that yet).

One thing that gardeners here don't typically do at this time of year is start seeds -- unless you have a greenhouse or plan on doing a lot of indoor growing that is. Here's something I like to do at this time of year though: sow a few seeds from various summer perennials and annuals.


It's really much too early to sow anything for spring planting -- that's late February at the earliest for me. 

Why then would I get some seeds started now?

Well, I typically only do this with seeds from plants that I haven't grown before, things that I have no experience with.

I like to do a trial planting mainly to learn how long the seeds take to germinate (and if I can even get them to sprout), but it's also fun to see what the seedlings look like.

It also gives me a chance to know what to expect: how tall a seedling is, how wide it gets, how fast it grows. This will help me plan when I start the seeds in earnest in late winter. It's a sneak peek at what to expect once winter is fading.

These test seedlings are doomed though, as I won't have room to nurture them through the winter. They're small now but in three months they'll be large plants fighting for space on my plant table. So after I've made my observations they get pulled. Sorry guys!

I have plenty of extra seeds to sow at the correct time:

That doesn't count the seeds that I collect myself and then forget to label. I'll never forget what these are, right?

Wrong! I have no idea. I've got at least four bags of seeds that fall in the "what the heck is this?" category.

I guess I should sow some of those now and see what grows, right?

Maybe I'll wait another month or so, when the need to plant something becomes too strong.


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Lisa  – (November 8, 2012 at 8:08 AM)  

I would love to see your indoor growing set-up. I'm lusting after a greenhouse... oh, the things I would grow! Just the idea of seeing things growing indoors while winter rages outside puts a sparkle in my eye!

Alan  – (November 8, 2012 at 9:27 AM)  

Lisa: I've shown this before, but will do another post sometime this winter.

scottweberpdx  – (November 8, 2012 at 9:43 AM)  

HA! I'm constantly find baggies of seeds that I didn't label (because, of course, I'll remember in six months).

danger garden  – (November 8, 2012 at 10:58 AM)  

I am so totally impressed! I thought that might be a little Echium baby in the second shot but I thought the first was Umbrella Palm (Cyperus alternifolius), now I notice the leaf pattern matches that of the E. lathyris. Any special hints for success in getting these two to germinate?

Alan  – (November 8, 2012 at 12:35 PM)  

Scott: glad to hear I'm not the only one!

Danger: I did nothing too special to get both of them to germinate, except keep the mostly-peat mix constantly wet. I do this by putting the pots in small cups or bowls with a little water in the bottom -- let the mix wick up the moisture. The Echium just germinated after a week or two, but the E. lathyris I put on top of the light fixture for some bottom heat after a while -- a few days of that seemed to help. Air temp on my table is about 72F.

Looking to land  – (November 8, 2012 at 4:18 PM)  

Alan, you can winter sow outside using a water jar cut into halves (top serving as the cover), if you don't know already. More on this link:

Lisa  – (November 8, 2012 at 9:31 PM)  

Oh! I remember that post! Thanks! And the milk jug greenhouse is genius, too!

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