Seed Starting Update 4/12/21

And, finally, a seed starting update. You didn’t think it was all live plants, did you?

(This one will be long. Luckily this blog layout goes to a cut on the main page after a few lines.)

Where did I leave off? Oh yes, March 27th. So, since then, this is what I’ve planted:

Seed starting, 3/30/21:

Tomato, Thornburn’s TerracottaBaker Creek
Tomato, White Tomesol Baker Creek
Tomato, Dad’s SunsetBaker Creek
Tomato, Barry’s Crazy CherryBaker Creek
Pepper, Biquinho Yellow (hot)Baker Creek
Sweet Pea, My NavyBotanical Interests
Sweet Pea, Little SweetheartBotanical Interests
Sweet Pea, Royal BlendBotanical Interests
Dahlia, Café au LaitSkyfall Flowers
Dahlia, Giant Hybrid MixJohnny’s Seeds

I bought a bunch of orange tomatoes to try, and received a free packet of white tomato seeds as well. Also, technically, the Dahlia was a tuber that I pre-sprouted, not a seed. ANd, another round of sweet peas. They are currently my bane.

Seed starting, 4/2/21:

Purple echinacea (stratified)Sustainable Sprout
Peppermint (stratified)Sustainable Sprout
Valerian (stratified)Tradewinds Fruits
Giant Columbine (stratified)MI Gardener
Lavender, Provence Blue (stratified)Sustainable Sprout
Calendula, Pacific Beauty Mix Baker Creek
Aster, Giant Perfection Mix Baker Creek
Bachelor’s Button, Blue BoyBotanical Interests
Calendula, Pink Surprise Baker Creek
ECHINACEA, Green TwisterSwallowtail Seeds
ECHINACEA, Primadonna Deep RoseSwallowtail Seeds
ECHINACEA, White SwanSwallowtail Seeds
Morning Glory, PurpleWild harvested
Zinnia, California GiantBotanical Interests
Zinnia, Queeny Lime OrangeBotanical Interests
Zinnia, SenoraR H Shumway’s
Pepper, Aurora (hot, decorative)Seed Savers Exchange
Leek, King RichardJohnny’s Seeds
Dianthus, Sweet WilliamPinetree Seeds

One day, I will get those Echinacea seeds to sprout! Perennials are the next frontier, apparently.

Seed starting, 4/3/21:

Sweet Pea, My NavyBotanical Interests
Sweet Pea, Royal BlendBotanical Interests
Sweet Pea, Little SweetheartBotanical Interests
SalanovasJohnny’s Seeds
Basil, Lettuce LeafBaker Creek
several nasturtiumsmisc
Sugar Snap peasJohnny’s Seeds
Bulgarian Giant LeeksBaker Creek

I had just gotten a new order of Sweet Peas in, as my last batch did not take. And it seemed prudent to get some more nasturtiums, leeks, and lettuces started.

Seed starting, 4/4/21:

Pusa CarrotsBaker Creek
Sugar Snax CarrotsJohnny’s Seeds
Dragon CarrotsBaker Creek
Breakfast RadishesBotanical Interests
Yellow TurnipsBaker Creek
Mulberry TreeBaker Creek

Working on getting some carrots planted, and filling the Greenstalk.

Seed starting, 4/5-4/6/21:

Dahlia, Dwarf CactusRH Shumway
Sugar Snap PeasJohnny’s
German ChamomileBotanical interests
Pink HollyhocksBaker Creek
Giant DahliaJohnny’s
Cylindra BeetsJohnny’s
Botlhardy BeetsPinetree Seeds
Ruby Swiss ChardBotanical interests
Lollipop Mix GaillardiaBaker Creek
Hollyhock, NigraTrade Wind Fruit
Pansy, Got the Blues Botanical Interests
Poppy, Amazing GreyBotanical Interests
Poppy, Spring Melody Blend California Botanical Interests
Poppy, Falling In Love Baker Creek
Poppy, Hungarian Blue Breadseed Baker Creek
Rudbeckia, Autumn ColorsPinetree Seeds
Snapdragon, Madame Butterfly MixJohnny’s Seeds
Viola, King Henry Botanical Interests
Dianthus, Sweet WilliamPinetree Seeds
Delphinium, Magic Fountains Sky Blue/WhiteSwallowtail Seeds

Here I was, attempting to get more cold-hardy plants started from seed outdoors. As of yet, none of the flowers have sprouted, so back inside to the heat mat they go.

Seed starting, 4/8/21:

White MalvaPinetree Seeds
African DaisyBaker Creek
Bachelor’s Button, Classic Romantic Botanical Interests
Bergamont, WildBotanical Interests

A small batch of seeds started–Botanical Interests is having a free-shipping deal during all of April, and I couldn’t resist.

Also on 4/8/21, I starting trying my hand at taking cuttings from the bushes in our yard: purple lilac, honeysuckle, and our large quickfire hydrangea. Still waiting to see how these turn out. So far, the honeysuckle cuttings look good while the rest seem just eh.

“Seed” starting, 4/11/21:

A big chunk of my dahlias arrived yesterday, and I spent a few hours pruning and splitting them. I also potted up ‘Melody Pink’ and ‘Great Silence’ in the hopes that I can start taking cuttings off of them. Nothing like a plant that is easy to propagate 🙂 Makes me feel a little bit better about how much they all cost.

Seed starting today, 4/12/21:

Sweet Pea, My NavyBotanical Interests
Sweet pea, Royal BlendBotanical Interests
Sweet Pea, Bouquet Blend Botanical Interests
Sweet Pea, Knee-Hi Blend Botanical Interests
Sweet Pea, Perfume Delight Botanical Interests

One last attempt at growing sweet peas, again thanks to Botanical Interests.

From now on, I’ll likely just be focusing on live plants and potting up my current seedlings. And the, you know, actual gardening, since I should finally be able to get out and start working in the beds next week.

Live Plant Update 4/12/21

So, a lot has happened in the garden in the last ten days or so. I am finally up and mobile (and in PT, oh joy) and am able to get out and do some of the larger planting. Luckily, last week my orders of living plants started rolling in.

First to arrive was a Coral Knock-Out Rose I ordered from Home Depot (I was getting impatient waiting for the nurseries and garden centers to send out my plants, so I did finally buy a few from Home Depot). My plan for the rose is to create a screen between myself and my neighbors on the right side–our fence is a picket-style fence that is only 3′ tall, and the lack of privacy is killing me. The rose was smallish, in my opinion, for a 1 gallon rose, but seems healthy and has a ton of fresh growth on it. I know it’ll take a few years for it to turn into the screen I envision it to be, but hopefully it’ll be a great yard decoration until then.

Next to arrive were my Night-Blooming Jasmines (Jessamine). Trying to veer away from large corporations (on the whole), I canceled my order with Burpee and found a dealer on Etsy who had amazing ratings and a decent price on the jasmine. I ordered three plants, thinking that they would be tiny and I’d need three or so to fill up a large pot for my deck. They were not. They were exquisitely packaged and each were at least 10″ tall and fully bushy. And, despite our week of 50s/60s temps and on-and-off again rain, they are thriving, with plenty of new growth. It looks like I’ll need to re-home at least one of them, as these are in no way hardy to my zone and I’ll have to bring them inside to overwinter them.

Next up were my strawberries from Johnny’s Seeds. All of the 25 bare-root strawberry plants in my order were healthy and moist with long roots. I planted about 18 of them in my Greenstalk and the rest went into small planters to give away to friends. The strawberries are not much to look at now, but since I took the pics they have sprouted–and at least one of them has been eaten by some unknown critter 😦 Which is probably why the smallest order is 25 plants–they assume I’m going to lose some of them, one way or another.

I think in the future, when I buy annual or biannual live plants, I’m going to stick with Johnny’s. They are the only company (aside from the Etsy dealer) that delivered the quality product that they said they would, when they said they would. They are a bit more expensive than places like Burpees or Ferry Morse, but from all I’ve seen and heard, they are extremely reliable. I have an order of sweet potato slips due to arrive in May; hopefully they’ll be of the same quality.

This week a few other plants have arrived: a ZinFin Doll hydrangea and a small order of Jersey Knight asparagus roots, The hydrangea was from Home Depot (same order as the rose) and arrived in pretty good condition. The plan for that is to also be a living screen blocking off part of the fence with my next-door neighbors. I hear that hydrangeas grow fast, and sooner is better than later. (We also have a ten-year-old QuickFire hydrangea next to the house, which is about 8′ tall at this point and looks like a small tree. If the ZinFin Doll gets anywhere near that height, I’ll be happy.) The asparagus was a last-minute panic buy from a random seller on Amazon, but the crowns arrived today in very good condition–I was highly impressed. Assuming we have no rain, they’ll go into the ground tomorrow.

New plants that are on the horizon: two Limelight Prime hydrangeas, both to help block the fence on the other side of my yard. Also, after forty-four years of waiting, I’ve finally ordered a red Japanese maple to fill in the empty spot between the garden and the back of the house. Bloodgood Japanese Maple, I can’t wait to add you to my growing menagerie of plants. ❤

A mature Bloodgood Japanese Maple tree

Splitting and Pre-sprouting Dahlia Tubers

The day has finally arrived! I received my first big batch of dahlia tubers yesterday, from Longfield Gardens. I had also received one tuber each from Skyfall Flowers and Dutchbulbs.com a few weeks ago. With all of these tubers, I decided to try my hand at pre-sprouting–for some of them, just to make sure the bulbs were viable; for others, because I wanted to take cuttings and grow more of them 🙂

The first bulb I received, back on 3/25/21 (I’m in zone 5a/b), was from Dutchbulbs. It was a Fleurel bulb clump for my Moon Garden, and it looked absolutely dead. It was a dehydrated as could be, with the outer layer sloughing off most of the tuber clump. I trimmed everything off except for one damaged tuber which looked like it had a bit of crystalized sap on it, and planted that just to see if it was actually viable. The tuber from Skyfall Flowers, on the other hand, was a finely trimmed and cared-for Cafe au Lait tuber (that I paid way to much in shipping for–$15 for one bulb!). It looked happy and healthy. I planted both in pots indoors, and both have now pre-sprouted! The desiccated Fleurel actually has three sprouts coming off of it. I am amazed.

By far the bulk of my dahlias, however, have come from Longfield Gardens. Their prices are amazing (for us non-wholesale buyers, anyway)–3 full clumps of tubers per order, with each order usually ranging in cost from $14-$16.50. (Plus free shipping over $50!) I realized, when I received the bulbs, how they could offer such a low price on their dahlias, when so many other online companies are charging the same prices but for one bulb only. The clumps, when they arrived, were kind of a mess. Some of the clumps were almost immaculate, while others (such as the Melody Pink, for some reason) were so beat up I could barely salvage one good tuber out of each clump. Still, I was able to get at least one good tuber per clump for each type of dahlia I ordered–and some of them had up to 6 or 7 viable tubers. Here was how I processed them.

Though I hadn’t ever split a dahlia tuber before, I’ve now watched countless videos on how to do it, so I decided to give it a go. With the Longfield dahlias, I have at least three of each variety, so I figured the odds were good. I had heard that people often choose to divide the tubers in the spring because it is easier to find the eyes, and I have to agree. A good 2/3rds of the bulbs had eyes already sprouting. With the rest, I took an educated guess, or just kept them together in one clump.

Finally, I potted up two varieties yesterday: Melody Pink, as it was so beat up and I was concerned none of the tubers were viable; and Great Silence, as a friend of mine has already put in a request for that one. (I’m waiting on a set of 10×10 trays from Bootstrap Farmer to arrive before I pre-sprout the rest.)

The sprouts on my first Fleurel and Cafe au Lait bulbs from my earlier orders are just about ready to be cut, so I should have a Pre-Sprouting Dahlias Part 2 coming up soon. Wish me luck!

Leeks are planted!

The leeks are planted! As are the onions. I just barely made it in time–waiting 2.5 weeks out of the 3 weeks that Dixondale recommends as the limit. The starts did look pretty dry, but they weren’t moldy. I gave them a good watering and some fertilizer, so here’s hoping they’ll settle in. We have relatively warm weather for the next 2.5 days before it heads back into freezing again, so hopefully that’s enough time for them to get acclimated. Item #1 marked off of my Garden 2021 to-do list, huzzah!

My First Foray into the Backyard

Last Friday, I had my 6-week check-up with my surgeon. He said, and I quote, “Do as much as your pain allows”. Of course, the first day I overdid it, trying to walk everywhere without crutches, and even tried the stairs, and now am back to using crutches again. (Stairs: not a good idea.)

Today was my first day to actually get out into my backyard since last December. I waited until the weather was at least 50F and not raining, which didn’t happen until today. I still used the crutches, and had my fiancé carry a few things out for me, but still! I was in the backyard! It was progress.

I found that one of my 30-year old rhubarb plants (one of which I had completely removed last fall, and the other of which I severely pruned) had survived. I now have one extremely large rhubarb plant, despite having removed a good 3/4 of the root system last fall. (I have photos I’ll post at some point; 30-year-old rhubarb roots are huge, moldy, and disgusting. And they extend for what seems like miles.)

I also found that I had apparently mulched my garlic beds too much. (Or, perhaps, I should have removed the mulch sooner.) I had out about 6″ of mixed leaf and grass clippings on it last November, worried that the garlic would freeze over winter. Some of the garlic shoots had made its way through the mulch, but most of it hadn’t. Once I removed the mulch I found that almost all of them did sprout, though, which is a good sign. Hopefully being exposed to the sun will strengthen up the shoots and help the plants rebound. This is my first year growing garlic, so I’m not exactly sure how it will go.

I also found that my rock garden was completely inundated with day lilies. I remembered it having a few lilies, yes, but it turns out the entire back half is covered with them. It’ll be a bigger job that I had planned on to remove them all. I’ll probably just have to remove the rocks and dig the entire garden out–the lilies have been growing there for at least 30 years as well 😛 I may have to give it a pass this year and tackle it next year instead. I already have too many projects right now as it is.

It looks like the plain white Shasta daisies have survived and are thriving. I have at least 6 well-established clumps of them in the long flower garden in the backyard–they are currently the most prominent flower in that garden. The plan is to remove all but, say, two of them–maybe I’ll even move one to my Moon Garden. I should also have a regular purple echinacea and a small pink rose bush in that garden–I found the rose, but not the echinacea as of yet. And, of course, the ubiquitous construction-cone orange day lilies.

(I actually have a few cool red-orange day lilies that I’ll save, but I believe those are all lining the alley–not in the garden itself. I despise the plain bright orange ones–they are everywhere in my neighborhood, and look so boring.)

Finally, the hostas, which up until a few years ago had been ringing an overgrown Eastern Cedar, look like they may finally have died. Hostas are a shade-loving plant, but since the cedar was removed a few years ago due to old age, they’ve had nothing but direct afternoon sun. I’m surprised they’ve lasted this long. In their place, I’m planning on putting some sweet peas and a trellis.

I’ll post phots of the backyard as planting and such progresses, but for now, I’m just happy to have been in the garden.

Seed Sowing, Week of 3/22/21

Another week, another batch of seeds started.

My Swallowtail Seeds order arrived, finally–over 30 days after I ordered it, true, but the website did warn of 5 week delays. So I was finally able to get my Echinaceas planted. My Pinetree Garden Seeds order also arrived, slightly quicker than the Swallowtail Seeds order, and another small order I put in at Johnny’s arrived, all in the same week. So it was a pretty busy week of sowing.

My “Moon Garden” plants are, for the most part, started. I’ll be using the Fleurel dahlia as my centerpiece, with the White Swan echinacea, Snow White malva, Abyssinian Gladiolus (Acidanthera Murielae), and white African daisy in graduated rows leading up to it, and any ranunculus and gladiolus bulbs form my mixes that end up being white, all framed by a moonflower vine. I’ve also got night-blooming jasmine on order, but that’s not set to arrive until late May, so I need to remember to leave some space in the Moon Garden for it as well. All in all, not a bad start for an all- white garden.

Sowing 3/20/21:

Madame Butterfly MixJohnny’s Seeds
Dahlia, Unwins Mix Baker Creek
Dahlia, Redskin Mix Pinetree Seeds
Calendula, Pink Surprise Baker Creek
Calendula, Zeolights Botanical Interests
Lupine, genericJoseph

Sowing 3/24/21:

Amazing Gray PoppyBotanical Interests
Black NasturtiumRH Shumway’s
Peach Melba NasturtiumBotanical Interests
Malva, Snow WhitePinetree Seeds
Rainbow Loveliness Cottage PinksBotanical Interests
Hollyhock, Indian SpringBaker Creek

Sowing 3/26/21:

Dahlia, FleurelDutch Bulbs
ECHINACEA, GREEN TWISTERSwallowtail Seeds
ECHINACEA, WHITE SWANSwallowtail Seeds
SALVIA, ROSE QUEENSwallowtail Seeds
SCABIOSA, FAMA DEEP BLUESwallowtail Seeds
MoonflowerSeed Savers Exchange
Madame Butterfly Bronze w/ WhiteJohnny’s Seeds

Sowing 3/27/21:

Basil, Lettuce LeafBaker Creek
Chamomile, GermanBotanical Interests
Cosmos, Sea ShellsBaker Creek
Swiss Chard, Ruby Red/RhubarbBotanical Interests
Beet, CylindraJohnny’s Seeds
Beet, BolthardyPinetree Garden Seeds
Salanova® Green Sweet CrispJohnny’s Seeds
Salanova® Home Garden MixJohnny’s Seeds
Delphinium, Sky Blue/WhiteSwallowtail Seeds
Hollyhock, NigraTrade Wind Fruit
Genovese BasilBotanical Interests

The reason I start so many seeds is because 1) seeds are cheap, and I’ve already paid for them; and 2) I like to have variety. I’m not sure if I’ll end up planting all of these seedlings in my garden, but I want to have the option to do so. And despite overspending on seeds this year, it’s still cheaper than buying these plants already started from my local garden center (assuming my local garden center even carried all of these varieties, which is unlikely). But, mostly I just need something gardening-related to do right now while I’m housebound and healing.

So far, everything from the 3/20/21 sowing has germinated, and the Amazing Gray poppy from 3/24 has also germinated (poppies seem to germinate very quickly). I reordered the Madame Butterfly Bronze with White because it turns out that I hadn’t ordered the correct variety earlier–I had ordered a Madame Butterfly mix instead. So I will have a ton of snapdragon seedlings to choose from in about two months.

A note on dahlia bulbs: not all dahlia sellers are equal, apparently. The Fleurel bulb I ordered from DutchBulbs.com (again, very early into my dahlia purchasing) was way overpriced, and the bulb I received was clearly dehydrated, with the outer skin peeling off of most of the bulb. I planted it up in a pot anyway, but as of yet, it doesn’t show any signs of life. To be on the safe side, I ordered another Fleurel from Longfield Gardens, which was cheaper and actually includes three bulbs per order rather than just the one Dutchbulbs.com offers. (Also, the customer service at Longfield Gardens is amazing! Quick to respond and very flexible in rearranging my orders.) Once I get all of the bulbs I ordered and have them planted, I’ll write up a comparison of the five companies from whom I ordered dahlia bulbs.

More Live Plants

So, the longer I sit at home waiting for my knee to heal, the more plants I buy. It is what it is.

I’ve picked up more bulbs, some lavender, and even another dahlia (I know, I don’t need any more). Here’s what I’ve got on order so far:

Miscanthus “Encore” (Proven Winners)

Miscanthus “Encore” (Proven Winners)

The Miscanthus is the plant I’m most excited about currently. I never thought I’d be the type to buy ornamental grasses–it’s always seemed too mature and “posh”–but, lo and behold, I am now aware of their many practical benefits.

The fence around my backyard is pretty but impractical. It’s also only a few years old, so I don’t have a really legitimate reason for tearing it down and putting up a more practical one–nor do I have the funds at the moment to do so. The fence is about 3′ high and in the picket fence style, with about 3 or so inches between each vertical slat. It’s pretty, but offers no privacy, and if we ever get a dog that is medium-sized or larger, it’ll be useless. (My parents, the former owners, had a mini dachshund.) As our back fence borders the alleyway, which is well paved and often used by joggers and dog-walkers in the neighborhood, I constantly feel like random strangers are walking through my backyard. it’s highly irritating but I couldn’t figure out how to handle it without spending a bunch of $ on a new fence, which my fiancé would never agree to. Enter ornamental grasses.

I came across the idea of using large ornamental grasses as a hedge while watching “You Can’t Eat the Grass”‘s bulb unboxing the other day–they had bought a different variety for use at their farm. I did some searching on Google and found one I liked–the Encore by Proven Winners 🙂 I have a strip of dirt between the fence and the alley which is currently populated by 30-year-old day lilies which need to get dug out anyway. So, I ordered six of the grasses to plant in that area, which should cover the fence. And it’s grass, so I imagine it’ll grow pretty quickly once they get established. And it is supposed to have really nice fall colors and “winter interest”, which means the breeder recommends not cutting them back until spring, so means that the hedge will last most of the year. Problem solved! Hopefully.

English Lavender–Hidcote

Another plant I picked up is some English Lavender (Hidcote). I haven’t grown much lavender, and the small plant of French lavender I picked up last year I attempted to overwinter on my back deck, thinking it was hardy to my zone. Apparently not. Looking back, I think I was basing this belief on the fact that lavenders definitely overwinter just fine in California, where I lived for 15 years. (Many places in CA have massive lavender and rosemary bushes edging the houses.) Alas, I am no longer in CA and need to deal with Zone 5b limits. So this time I did some research and picked up a few English lavender plants, which are hardy to my zone. I bought them from Michigan Bulbs, a company i’ve never purchased from before, but I had a coupon for free shipping 🙂 and many other online stores are already sold out. The plants are bare root, apparently, but I imagine they should fill out pretty well over the course of the summer.

Also from Michigan Bulb company are some more bulbs:

First, a mixed bag on dwarf Gladiolus bulbs. Dwarf, as I’ve never grown gladiolus and didn’t want to have to mess around with staking yet another type of flower. Next, a mixed bag of Anemones (again, a type of flower that is new to me). Finally, a mixed bag of ranunculus, as I had also ordered most of my ranunculus from Easy to Grow bulbs, and I wasn’t sure of the quality. Looking on Amazon, Easy to Grow is the main seller of ranunculus, and the reviews on the bulbs are pretty bad. (I had bought the bulbs directly through their website, which does not have any reviews.) So I figured the worse thing that will happen is I end up with too many ranunculus bulbs.

Finally, I did pick up another (!) dahlia. And I picked up some more Cafe au Lait tubers, because I realized I spent way too much on it earlier (it was the first dahlia I bought, and I spent like $15 for 1 tuber (!)–which, once I realized what I had done, completely broke my discount-loving heart.) I was so offended by this that I decided the only logical solution to this would be to buy more Cafe au Lait bulbs cheaper somewhere else. Obviously. So I did, but I needed to add more to my order in order to get the free shipping, so… I also picked up a mixed bag of caladiums and the “Melody Pink Allegro” dahlia, because it’s really pretty and pink and I’m a sucker.

Next up on my list of living plants to arrive, I believe, will be the Asparagus crowns from Gurney. Still need to plant my leeks/onions, which I should finally be able to do this weekend, assuming the dr gives me the ok at my appointment tomorrow. I’m thinking that many of these seed/plant companies assume that I have limitless amounts of land or that I’m actually a farmer. I am not. I don’t know what I’m going to do with 10 asparagus crowns–I really only have space for 5 at most, honestly, unless I start planting them in the lawn against the side fence–and the 25 strawberry plants and 25 sweet potato slips on order will likely be too many than I can manage as well. But that’s the size of order that they sell. Already, my local friends are getting inundated with seeds; the same will go for bulbs and live plants, I guess. (I’ve already hit my mom up for some of my dahlias, but as she lives in a condo now, she has much less space and no desire to care for a bunch of plants. 😦 ) But as I’d really rather not grow any of these from seed, my options are limited. There are worse things, I suppose.

Seedling Update 3/20/21

Well, another weekend, another round of planting. Plus it looks like I didn’t put last week’s big planting up. So, a lot to cover today.

Planting 3/13/21 (2 each variety of Bootstrap Farmer’s 2″ pots/trays; Pro Mix w/ Mycorrhizae instead of the Black Gold seedling mix):

Pepper, Alma Paprika (hot)Seed Savers Exchange
Pepper, Aurora (hot, decorative)Seed Savers Exchange
Tomatillo, Grande Rio Verde Botanical Interests
Tomatillo, PurpleBaker Creek
Tomato, Barry’s Crazy CherryBaker Creek
Tomato, CarbonBaker Creek
Tomato, Paul RobesonBaker Creek
Tomato, Sun Gold Pole Cherry Botanical Interests
Tomato, Sun Gold Pole Cherry Hirt’s Gardens
MoonflowerSeed Savers Exchange
Nasturitum, Tip Top AlaskanBaker Creek
Sunflower, ValentineSeed Savers Exchange
Eggplant, Listada de GandiaBotanical Interests
Snap Pea, Magnolia BlossomBaker Creek
Daisy, AfricanBaker Creek

So far, all of these have germinated at this point, though the peppers from Seed Savers have only one seedling each, and they only finally poked out their heads yesterday. Oddly, my both of my sets of Moonflower seedlings geminated on the same day, despite being sown two days apart. (I didn’t soak the first set of seeds, and nicked the second set.) And the tomatillo seedling are long and skinny, moreso than most of the rest of the seedlings. Maybe that’s just they way they look? (They look like really sickly tomato seedlings.) And–miracle of miracles!–all of my nasturtium varieties have now germinated, including the Peach Melba which got recycled into my snap pea potting soil. My Sweet Peas are all at least 6″ tall and my snap peas are not far behind. Currently, the peas are sitting on on the deck, getting acclimated.

Today’s sowing 3/20/21 included just one plant: the Madame Butterfly Bronze snapdragons I ordered from Johnny’s, as I just received them yesterday. Such tiny seeds for such a large plant! These are my absolute favorite of all of the snapdragons I’ve seen displayed on videos and seed catalogues: tall, frilly blooms of coppery-peach edged with white.

Finally, the leeks and onions are still not planted. My friend ended up rescheduling to this weekend, which is probably for the best, because we ended up having 3″ of snow! But they are happily sitting in my cool, dark back hall and should be fine.

Hopefully, by April I should be more mobile and able to perambulate my backyard and get a better idea of where I am going to plant all of the things I’ve ordered over the last two months. It’s getting pretty crowded, as I also picked up another dahlia and a 25-mixed bag of caladium bulbs to replace my mom’s tired old hostas around the deck. And a 25-pack of strawberries….

They’re here! (and way too early): Onions and Leeks

So my first live plants arrived a few days ago! Dixondale’s leeks and onion starts have arrived. I knew they’d ship in March but the posted ETA was 3/15 and I assumed they’d arrive a few days after that. They did not. They arrived 3/11/21. I was caught unprepared.

This was not necessary Dixondale’s fault. I had not read the website thoroughly to begin with and originally had them scheduled to arrive back at the end of January. Dixondale, however, being the professionals that they are, checked my zip code and decided that I really wanted the leeks to be shipped mid-March. Once I finally found the email that told me this (several weeks after the fact-my inbox has been getting really strict in deciding which emails are junk and which ones are not), I relaxed. At least, I did until my knee surgery got more complicated than expected and I found out I’ll be on crutches for at least 6 weeks, not 2 weeks as originally planned. On top of that, they did actually arrive at least a week before I expected. While the snow has all melted, I haven’t gone outside to even look at my garden. Nothing in my garden is prepped yet.

When the leeks and onions arrived, I wasn’t even really mobile enough to get the materials to unpack and store them properly in my back hall (which in the winter works well as cold storage). Luckily, a gardening friend was stopping by that day anyway and helped me unpack and store them. The “plan” is for her to come over again tomorrow to attempt to get out into the garden tomorrow and plant some of them, at least. Dixondale’s website states that, since leeks and onions are part of the lily family, they can store up to three weeks in a cool, dry area, and not to been worried if the tops and bottoms turn brown b/c they will revive once planted in the soil. To be fair, given our current weather and the temperature of our soil, this week really would have been an ideal time to plant the starts, had I not been injured.

Luckily, I did do a pretty good job tidying up last fall, so the garden is not a mess. And I have a large tub which was going to hold sweet potatoes but for now can hold most, if not all, of my leeks starts. I think I’ll try to plant the onions in the beds that already are half-filled with garlic; those beds are already prepped, and I might as well keep the alliums together. And I’ll likely have extras to give to my friend should she want them. No two-person household really needs that many leeks or garlic.

I ordered one bunch of Lancelot Leeks (the only variety they carry) and a mixed bunch of long-day onions, which ended up being comprised of Walla Walla sweet yellow onions; Ringmaster white onions; and Redwing red onions. (I’ve only ever tried the Walla Walla onions, but onions are onions, I guess.) Each bunch has 50-60 starts in it. I’m mostly excited to grow the leeks. Over the last few years I’ve picked up a couple of staple recipes that use leeks, and they are a pain to get from the store as they are not always in stock and are often expensive. Luckily they do store quite well in the fridge, even already chopped and cleaned.

Here are my favorite recipes for which I hope to use my own home-grown leeks:

Potato Leek Soup — I substitute cauliflower for the potatoes–it has a better glycemic index, and I think it tastes better with cauliflower anyway.

Chicken and Leek Pie (William Sonoma) — This recipe tastes amazing. I make it exactly the way the recipe calls for (which is almost unheard of in my kitchen). It really is that good. The way I make it is essentially as chicken pot pie, with bottom crust but no top crust. It freezes well, too.

Triple Mushroom and Leek Soup –A great soup for a cold day. I omit the cream in this soup (as I do with most soups, as I’m lactose intolerant). I think it tastes amazing either way. For this soup, I recommend a health dose of shiitake mushrooms, with a few white mushrooms and the rest crimini mushrooms (or whatever version of portobello that looks good at the store that day). I’ve also made it using chantarelle mushrooms once; it was divine.

I’ve also been told that the leek greens are also good in veggie and chicken stock, though I usually just toss or compost them instead.

Leeks are amazing. They are one of the few plants I’m growing this year that I’m really counting on to succeed. The rest (tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, et al) are honestly just a bonus.

Seedling Update 3/13

I started planting my first seeds two weeks ago, and have been planting more batches every few days as the seed packs indicate. So far it’s going pretty well; about 90% of seeds have germinated and are up and going. I can say this with confidence as I have all of my seeds and this year’s sowings organized in Excel spreadsheets and know exactly how many seeds were planted and when. (I literally had nothing to while the earth was covered in 2′ of snow and waited for my knee to heal this past month.) So I’m possibly better organized with my garden than I’ve ever been with anything, but I know I’ll be grateful for it all when it comes time to plant next year.

Here’s what I’ve planted so far:

Medium: Black Gold seedling mix. All seedlings are planted in 6-pack deep trays or Bootstrap Farmer’s 2″ seed pots. All trays are in 10×20 trays on heating pads with large humidity domes.

2/28/21:

Autumn Colors RudbeckiaPinetree Seeds
Dwarf Cactus DahliaRH Shumway
Redskin Mix DahliaPinetree Seeds
Lobelia (Crystal Palace)Botanical Interests
Sugar Stars PhloxBaker Creek
Rainbow LovelinessBotanical Interests
Pink CarnationsMI Gardener
Arena Red Lisianthus Hirt’s Seeds
Listada de Gandia EggplantBotanical Interests
Lettuce Leaf BasilBaker Creek
Holy BasilTradewinds Fruit
PennyroyalHirt’s Seeds

Of this batch, the Sugar Stars Phlox and the the Lisianthus did not germinate at all. I recycled the phlox and will prob attempt to resow them at some point later this spring. I’m still waiting on the Lisanthus as I know they take forever to germinate.

(Note: when I say I “recycled” a given variety, I’m just recycling the soil, not the actual seed. Yes, I know sometimes the seeds will pop up later on in random places; it’s all good.)

3/1/21:

Peach Melba NasturtiumBotanical Interests
Single Blend Trailing NasturtiumBotanical Interests
Lollipop Mix GaillardiaBaker Creek
Bull’s Blood BeetPinetree Seeds

Of this batch, one lone Trailing Nasturtium germinated and absolutely no other nasturtiums did. I loved growing (and eating) my nasturtiums last year, but I used an Alaska Mix from Ferry Morse (of all companies) and I had to restock. I had no problems with that seed mix, though I noticed that nasturtiums take forever to grow,\ so I knew I needed to start them early. Really sad that these did not germinate. I have the lone trailing nasturtium sitting in my kitchen windowsill and recycled the soil of the rest. The Gaillardia germinated well but I am finding that, once germinated, they are growing really slowly. Or perhaps I’m just impatient. (I ended up eating the beet seedlings; technically they were from a microgreens mix anyway. I’ll plant more outside later.)

3/4/21:

Sugar Snap PeaJohnny’s Seeds
Salanova® Green Sweet CrispJohnny’s Seeds
Salanova® Home Garden MixJohnny’s Seeds
Wildfire Mix LettuceJohnny’s Seeds
Fenugreek (plant)Johnny’s Seeds

So, I broke down one night after watching way too many “You Can’t Eat The Grass” videos about how much they looooved Johnny’s Salanova lettuces and bought some to try out. (It was slow going as most of the time I tried to buy something from their website, they were closed to home gardeners as they were just trying to get caught up with actual farmer’s orders.) If you’ve never bought from Johnny’s, prepare to deal with some serious sticker shock. Each pack of the Salanova lettuces was around $6 for 25 seeds (which for lettuce seed is outrageous!) However, the Salanovas, at least, are highly researched and trademarked, and apparently last 3x as long in the fridge, taste better than most lettuces, are highly prized by market farmers, etc. I was very careful with my Salanova seeds and only planted two of each kind–they had better have 100% germination at that cost. And so far, they have. The Wildfire mix was on sale; it germinated well but tasted bitter, so they got recycled. The Fenugreek also germinated well and grew extremely quickly as a microgreen, but I also found their taste to be bitter; I saved one so I could grow it as an herb and recycled the rest.

The Snap Peas are off and running and are already 6″ high. I had a ton of trouble with my peas last year–it was so disappointing, as I love snap peas and they are one of the few things I can grow that don’t trigger any of my food intolerances. But now I’m not sure what to do with snap peas that are actually growing the way they should. At the moment, I’ve pinched them off the way you would a Sweet Pea vine; maybe they’ll bush up the way a Sweet Pea does? Who knows? The tops were tasty, though. (If I’ve learned nothing at all from Charles Dowding, I’ve at least learned that you can grow snap peas just for their shoots.)

3/7/21:

Hyssop, Apache SunsetBotanical Interests
Pansy, Got the Blues Botanical Interests
Viola, Johnny-Jump-UpBotanical Interests
Viola, King Henry Botanical Interests
Pepper, Biquinho Yellow (hot)Baker Creek
Pepper, Fish (hot)Baker Creek
Pepper, Pasilla Bajio Chile Chilaca (hot)Botanical Interests
Leek, King RichardBotanical Interests

The pansies, violas, and hyssop have all germinated well and look good. Even my leek seeds have sprouted (I’m trying to get some succession sowing–I have leek starts, and now this batch from seeds.) Also, surprisingly, the Pasilla Bajio pepper popped up already. My (limited) experience with hot peppers is that they take forever to germinate. When I grew Sugar Rush Peach peppers last year, I had healthy seedlings pop up in recycled soil a good two months after I had originally sown them, though my first Sugar Rush peppers only took three weeks or so to germinate, I think. So I’m not worried about the other hot peppers, but I’m a tad worried about the Pasilla Bajio as it’s not going to be warm enough to plant them outside here until at least mid-May. But who knows? Gardening is always a guessing game, imho. I’ve never grown any of these from seed before.

3/8/21:

Sweet Pea, Little SweetheartBotanical Interests
Sweet Pea, My NavyBotanical Interests
Sweet Pea, Royal BlendBotanical Interests

Note: Sweet Peas (the flowering vine) are grown for their flowers only, as all parts of that plant are toxic if ingested. Just FYI.

So, inspired in part by “The Impatient Gardener” videos, and a bunch of other market flower grower videos, I’ve decided to try my hand at growing Sweet Peas. They look very curly and pretty, and apparently many of them smell heavenly. So why not? I gave the seeds an overnight soak, and so far the “Royal Blend” seeds have all sprouted, with the “My Navy” seeds not far behind. (While it’ll be cool to finally grow any pea successfully, it’s just one more crop that needs a trellis, unfortunately. Sigh.)

3/11/21:

WormwoodSeed Savers Exchange
African DaisyBaker Creek
White MarigoldBaker Creek
MoonflowerSeed Savers Exchange
Black Velvet NasturtiumR H Shumway’s
Dwarf Jewel Mix NasturtiumBaker Creek
Tip Top Salmon NasturtiumBaker Creek

These seeds obviously haven’t had a chance to come up yet. I’ve sown a new batch of nasturtiums from different companies in the hopes that these varieties have better germination rates. I have enough seeds to keep resowing them all year if need be. Though I did forget to soak this batch, so that may not help things. Also, moonflower seeds, as I learned after the fact, also need to be soaked or nicked somehow before they are planted, so this batch of moonflowers may not come up at all. But then again, moonflowers are a morning glory, and morning glories want to grow, so who knows?

The wormwood is part of my ongoing plan to create a perennial witchy Victorian-style herb garden, with a wide variety of both culinary and “magical” herbs. Apparently wormwood, like morning glories, want to grow, and will get huge and take over the garden the way a mint or basil would if given a chance. (This seems to be the case with many herbs I’ve seen, actually.) So my herb garden may have to end up being a container garden, like for a Victorian’s solarium, rather than an in-ground English cottage hedge-witch type of garden. Ah, well.

This weekend’s plan is to get the rest of my peppers and all the rest of my nightshades planted. The tomatoes will probably go out to the garden sooner than the peppers; I’ve no idea how the tomatillos will grow, as I’ve never grown tomatillos. I have enough seeds in my collection to keep growing for at least five years, so either way, I’ll get something to grow.