Seed Sowing So-far (2019)

Its the middle of a Polar Vortex here… which is just internet-talk for “it’s winter and it’s cold.”

It also means that I (and everyone else too) am itching for it to be spring. So I had to sow some seeds and kind of get my fingers in the dirt. I also wanted to keep up the momentum of actually writing on this little ol’ blog of mine. I’m aiming for 2 posts per week. But I’m warning you that if life starts to get busy and crazy again, this might be the first thing I drop off the priority list.

But enough blabbering.. Here is what I’ve sown so far this year.

In mid- January, I sowed some Red Beard Onions in a red solo cup. I’ll let them grow together in a clump and then plant them out. This is mostly to hedge my bets in the case that the ones I planted last year, don’t make it through this winter (although I have been diligent in making sure my beds have been covered in snow for some insulation from the wind)

At the same time, I also sowed some Silverskin Pickling onions. The seed packet was from 2014, so I figured I would finally try and grow them again. I’m growing them the same as the ‘Red Beard’ onions, but once it comes to planting them out, I will probably separate them (gently) and plant them in some organised fashion, rather than a clump.

I also have a handful of baby trees I’ve started, but that is a whole ‘nother post, that I’ll get to writing eventually.

On January 30th, I finally pulled out my little peat pellet trays, and I sowed some herbs. I still have many herbs to start, but this was a start. Herbs are a good way to quench your thirst of planting something. They will grow pretty slow, so won’t get out of hand when you start them this early. Here is what I filled my 12 pellet tray with on Jan. 30:

  • 2x Greek Oregano
  • 2x German Winter Thyme
  • 2x Sweet Marjoram
  • 2x Summer Savory
  • 2x Midget Summer Savory
  • 2x Winter Savory

On February 6, the above herbs had all sprouted, so I planted some more variety for my herb garden this summer:

  • 2x Oregano
  • 2x Lemon Balm
  • 2x Anise
  • 2x Munstead English Lavendar
  • 2x Heirloom Pineapple Alpine Strawberries
  • 2x Habanero Peppers

The Lavendar and the Strawberries are both some more hedging-bet plants. I grew them later last year, and they are planted out in the garden. I just wanted a little back-up.

The Anise is an old seed packet, and more of a “hey lets try this” rather than something I am really excited about. If it makes it, then it will be fun to try something new. This is a good way to discover new things when you are new to gardening. I’ve found a bunch of new things I like growing by doing this.

The Lemon Balm is one of those things that I’ve found I love by just trying it. I don’t necessarily do anything with the plant, but Its great aroma therapy just to touch the leaves. If you are looking for something easy to grow, this is one of them. It grows easy, with hardly any work and the leaves smell amazing.

Habanero… The Habanero was a bit of a whim. I didn’t have any other herb seeds that I was ready to start yet, and then I found my pepper seeds, and figured I would give the habaneros a go again. Last time I grew them, I did get a few peppers, but I remember wishing I had started them a bit earlier. This will let the plants be a little more mature in the comfort of my warm house before I make them go outside. This is one of the things I am excited to grow again, but also won’t be super sad if they don’t make it.

Next up in my sowing will be the rest of the peppers that I want to grow. This will probably be near the end of the month, and into March. Between Mid March and Mid-April I will be doing tomatoes and near the end of April, I will start any squash or cucumbers. I will also be going through my flower seeds and sowing whatever catches my eye. Likely some more hollyhocks, lavatera, cosmos and maybe some sunflowers.

 

Any suggestions or hints & tips or anything you’d like to share, put it in the comments below

My Etsy Shop: Back 40 Woodcraft

 

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Wildflower “Butterfly Garden” Mix

In my quest to grow more flowers last year, I picked up a wildflower mix. It is a “Butterfly mix”. A few years ago I think I picked up a Bee-garden mix, and was looking for it again, but could not find it. Along with the butterfly mix, there was also a hummingbird garden mix and an old fashioned garden mix. However, I didn’t get around to sowing the packet. I got distracted by tomatoes.

The seed packet description reads: “The butterfly mixture contains a blend of delightfully fragrant and colorful flowers that attract nearby Butterflies while adding beauty to your garden.”

I thought it would be a good idea to de-code the “contents” names that are only in the latin/botanical name.

  • Alyssum maritimum: Sweet Alyssum or Sweet Allison. This is one I’m not particularly familar with. It is a member of the brassica family though, and native to the Meditarinian. Annual
  • Calendula officinalis: Calendula, or Pot Marigold. This is a self-seeding annual or a short-lived perennial. 
  • Centaurea cyanus: Bachelor’s Button or Cornflower. Annual
  • Cheiranthus allionii: Siberian Wallflower. Biennial
  • Coreopsis tinctoria: Golden Tickseed or Plains Coreopsis. Annual
  • Cynoglossum amabile: Chinese Forget-Me-Not. Annual
  • Delphinium consolida: Field Larkspur (Until I did some googling, I just expected this one to be regular perennial Delphinium, but according to the internet, it is an annual wildflower variety. Annual  (NOTE…. Do not eat or allow any animals to eat. Very Poisonous)
  • Dianthus barbatus: Sweet William. Biennial 
  • Echinacea purpurea: Purple Coneflower, Purple Echinacea. Annual
  • Eschscholzia californica: California Poppy. Perennial in warm areas, Annual in colder areas.
  • Gypsophila elegans: Baby’s Breath. Annual
  • Leucanthemum x superbum: Shasta Daisy. Perennial
  • Linum grandiflorum rubum: Scarlet Flax or Red Flax. Annual
  • Linum perenne: Blue Flax or Perennial Flax. Perennial
  • Rudbeckia hirta: Black Eyed Susan. Biennial (Some warmer areas- Perennial, some colder areas-Annual)
  • Silene armeria: Sweet William Catch-fly. Perennial in Zone 5-8, so probably Annual here.

Last year, I also received in the mail the Honey Nut Cheerios “Bring Back the Bees” Wildflower seed mix, And a pack of wildflower seeds from Bees Matter. And just like the pack above, I did not get around to sowing them. I like that the Bees Matter pack included the varieties they included in the pack. I will hopefully get these sown this year as well.

While I appreciate Honey Bees, they are not native here. If they want to come check out my flowers that is awesome, but I am growing them more for ANY pollinators that want to visit, and not just Honey Bees.


 

This is some of the seeds in the “Butterfly garden” Mix

Peppers and other Nightshades I am growing this year (2018)

What? How is it April 2nd already? Actually, its April 3rd for most of the world already. Typically by this point in the year, I have started all of my tomatoes and peppers and they are getting leggy and moving from the small light area to the one window I have available, and fighting for space with my houseplants. (hey look, I still write in run-on sentences)

Today, on my way home from work, I stopped at Canadian Tire and grabbed some new peat pellets and seed starting soil (and a few seed varieties that I’ll mention when I actually sow them… they weren’t tomatoes or peppers so we’ll get there eventually). I soaked some pellets and got to digging out my seed collection and finally deciding what to grow.

That was when I decided I should dust off this poor blog and write something.

So Peppers (chillies) and “others” is up today. Tomatoes will be up soon, because I also sowed them today too.

Given my small space, and desire to step away from having a ton of containers, I didn’t start any sweet peppers. Maybe next year.

Here is what I sowed this year:

  • 2x ‘Kung Pao Hybrid’
    •  Burpee Seeds (this pack is from 2015)
    • “Vigorous plants produce 11cm thin-walled, dark green fruits that ripen to a bright red”
  • 2x ‘Seranno’ 
    • McKenzie Seeds (this pack is from 2015 or 2016)
    • “Serrano is a small, fiery hot Chilli pepper with a delayed fuse. It is one of the hottest peppers available. It is smaller and hotter than a jalapeno. The fruit measuring 5-7.5cm (2-3″ long) and 1.25cm (1/2″) in diameter are glossy green turning orange-red at maturity with medium thin walls. A favourite in sizzling hot salsas and sauces and Asian dishes.”
  • 4x ‘Long Red Cayenne Slim’
    • McKenzie Seeds (this pack is from 2017)
      • Last year I sowed these from a 2016 pack and had zero germination, so I splurged on a new pack. However, by the time they really got going, the summer was over and I only got maybe one pepper from 6 plants. Here is hoping that I can make up for it this year, as I need some fresh Cayenne Pepper in my spice cupboard
    • ‘These 13-15 cm (5-6″) long hot peppers can be eaten while green or red. Plant in sunny location with adequate moisture.”
  • 2x ‘Purple Tomatillo’
    • McKenzie Seeds (this pack is from 2014) {keep your fingers crossed these seeds are still viable}
    • “This uniquely coloured tomatillo is enjoyed for its sweet, yet tart flavor. The vigorous and highly productive plant provides a visual flare with its striking purple-veined leaves. The fruit forms inside papery husks that begin green then ripen to a deep rich purple. The fruits are great grilled, in salsa, or as a taco topping.”
  • 2x ‘Violetta Lunga di Napoli’ Eggplant
    • McKenzie Seeds (this pack is from 2014)
    • “Dark violet, cylindrical and smooth 20cm (8″) long, rustic, fruits are grown all over Italy. Classic rich eggplant taste. A good, reliable producer.”

As you can see, some of the seeds are getting quite old. I was very generous in the amount of seeds I set to germinate in the peat pellets. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that they decide to spring to life, and also that we have a nice warm summer with plenty of rain to keep things nice and watered.

The “featured image” of this post are some of the Serrano peppers from last year which grew fantastic. I had a decent harvest from the 2 plants I grew. I dried all the chillies from last year and then ground them into a pepper blend that I gave to my father in law for Christmas. Here is the photo I am speaking of if you can’t see it in the header above.

img_7634

 

Tomatoes – Part 2 (2017)

I feel like I am sooooooo late in getting my next round of Tomatoes sown… But realistically, I’m well within the 6 week starting period… And if we have a cold spring, I’m well within the 8-10 weeks before the last frost… Its just with the beautiful Spring weather we have been having the last week or so, I feel behind. I feel like the grass should be mowed (its not even growing or green or even de-dog-pooped yet). It feels like real Spring, but realistically, this is Alberta, and we could still get snow anytime in the the next two months.

But before I go on and on and on about my weird feelings about Spring sowing… Let me tell you about the next round of Tomatoes…

So Today (April 4), I’m sowing (in peat pellets, as per usual):

  • Sub-Arctic Plenty
    • Sowed: 4 peat pellets
    • “Developed in Alberta for Prairie climates, this cultivar is an early, upright tomato. It will set fruit, even under cold conditions! Bountiful yields of 56-70g (2-2 1/2 oz.) tomatoes. Keep well fed and watered. Determinate. No staking required. Heirloom.” McKenzie Seeds (2016)
  • Tiny Tim
    • Sowed: 3 peat pellets
    • “Extremely early scarlet red, miniature cherry tomato. Deep, well-drained soil is best. Perfect for decorating salads and vegetable trays. Determinate. No staking required. Heirloom.” McKenzie Seeds (2015)
  • Tumbler F1
    • Sowed: 1 peat pellet (because I only had 3 seeds left… better stock up for next year)
    • “Excellently suited for hanging baskets and containers, cascades of wonderfully sweet, 2.5cm (1″) cherry tomatoes tumble down over the edge. Also a great producer in the garden, this early ripening bush variety can product up to 2kg (4.4lbs) of fruit per plant. An exceptional and tasty tomato! Determinate. No staking required.” McKenzie Seeds (2015)
  • Black Russian
    • Sowed: 1 peat pellet
    • These seeds were from a trade, so I don’t have a seed packet to quote here for this one.
  • Principe Borghese
    • Sowed: 1 peat pellet
    • “This Italian variety is the traditional variety used for sun dried tomatoes. Plants stand up to high heat and produce plenty of tomatoes for drying, fresh eating and sauce making. Determinate – no staking required” McKenzie Seeds (2015)
  • Manitoba
    • Sowed: 2 peat pellets
    • “Very Dependable early variety, excellent for the Prairies. Bright red, juicy fruit. Deep well-drained soil is best. Eliminate blossom end rot problems by deep watering the plants so that the root system will be less affected by fluctuations in soil moisture. Determinate. No staking required. Heirloom.” McKenzie Seeds (2014)

Okay, so I really wanted to sow more of the Tumbler, but I’ll make up for it next year. They always produce a crazy amount of cherry tomatoes, throughout the entire summer. They are also usually the very first to set fruit and ripen, and sometimes the very last to give up to frost.

The Sub Arctic Plenty produced fantastic last year, so I sowed 4 of them again. Since it was developed here, that is probably why it grows well. If you also live in Alberta, or another cold area… Or want some tomatoes earlier than you would otherwise, give this one a try.

Tiny Tim’s are just awesome. Grow them. Trust me. They are so cute and also delicious. Since they are tiny little plants, you can keep them in some smaller containers. So if you only have a tiny area to grow things in (like a sunny front stoop, or a balcony), they are a great choice.

I threw the Principe Borghese into the mix. Hopefully I can keep the squirrel’s greedy little paws of them this year. I really want to try and make my own sun dried tomatoes… and by sun dried, I mean dehydrator-dried.

And, I threw the Manitoba in just because.

I was also keeping an eye out for “Green Envy” which was a Hybrid I found a few years ago by Burpee. They were so sweet and delicious and some of the best cherry tomatoes I have ever had. They were a little hard to tell when exactly they were ripe, since they are green. If I see them again, I will pick up a pack for next year.

I think this will be it for the tomatoes this year… unless I have a sad tale of germination to tell you. As it is, this is more than enough tomatoes… But I do hope to be able to make (and can) some fresh Bruchetta from my own tomatoes.

Do you have any tomatoes I should try? Want to make a seed trade? Add a message in the comments with any tips, tricks or encouragement.

(Just a note, the featured photo is from 2014 I think. I had an amazing tomato crop that year, because I had an amazing greenhouse to grow in… Too bad it was owned by legitimate crazy people)

Milkweed


I’m going to attempt to grow some Milkweed for the Butterflies this year.

The seed packet says to start indoors 8-10 weeks before last frost. That is right about now… I mean, our last frost date is very dependant on the year. And there are things that I can do to help protect the little plants if we have a cold spring.

The seed packet description reads: “Asclepias curassavica. Attractive to butterflies! This easy to grow cheerful flower provides large clusters of orange to reddish colored blooms along landscapes. Tolerates dry conditions. Annual”

Days to sprout: 14-21

Bloom Period: June-Frost

Since the seed packet doesn’t usually give a lot of helpful “how to grow” info if you have no idea what you are doing, I did a little googling.

This website suggests that Milkweed needs to go through a period of cold stratification. It is actually the most helpful site that I found in my quick googling so I’m going to follow their suggestions. A few things I learned:

  • Many varieties of Milkweed have a long tap root that should not be disturbed. They suggest using peat pots for this reason.
  • transplant out when plants are still small, less than 3 inches tall (because of that tap root).
  • apparently it is normal for the plant to lose all of its leaves after transplanting. The plant is building roots and will regrow its foliage after a bit. {This is a little concerning, so I’m going to have to keep this in mind, and cross my fingers that it doesn’t happen}
  • You should only have to water these just after transplanting to let them get established, and then after than only in periods of drought.

Okay, so Why grow Milkweed in the first place? For the Monarch Butterflies. According to the website saveourmonarchs.org the Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. Because of habitat destruction through development and spraying weeds in fields, Milkweed is fast disappearing. Thus Monarchs are fast disappearing.

Adult Monarchs do have a varied diet using other flowers as sources of nectar… It is the caterpillars that are facing the habitat loss.

From a more Canadian Perspective, Here is a link to Animal Facts on Monarchs from Canadian Geographic.

So this is what I’m going to do. I’ve put some seeds into a wet paper towel and I’m putting them in the fridge for a week or so. Then I will put them into seed starting mix in a large peat pot. I’ll start some not ‘cold-stratified’ seeds in the same sized peat pot at that time too. (I sowed/put seeds on paper towel into the fridge, on March 8th)

AND I will also be planting a few other wildflower mixes as well, but I’ll save that for another post.

I have done a little more googling since I first wrote the first part of this post. In some areas Milkweed is considered a noxious weed. So if you live in areas where this could easily self seed itself in areas outside of your growing area, maybe reconsider growing it. Check out information on your area and make your decision based on that. Please don’t blindly follow just one source on the internet. Find more, with different viewpoints and make your own decisions. I am going to still plant this. I don’t for see it escaping my yard. I might reconsider if I lived in a rural area with less containment. It is a choice, and it should be an informed one.

Front: Cold Stratified Seeds;    Back: Straight from the seed packet.


So, since I forgot to hit publish on this post when I first wrote it… As of March 29th, I have not noticed any difference between the cold stratified and the seeds straight out of the seed packet. The cold stratified ones are slightly behind, but there was about 10 days between when each was sowed into dirt. They are a little bit leggy, but I cannot adjust the height of my little grow light, so they are just doing their best.