by Paige Patterson
Of course, a girl who doesn’t know how to say no to a plant is also a person with a seed packet problem. There’s actually quite a few of us out there, I know, because I see them browsing among the packages as I make my choices. They’re the other people fingering the Little Lion Butterfly Zinnias and trying to decide if they need one of two packages of the heirloom Watermelon Radishes (I took only one – and I’m worried I might regret it.)
They know who they are, so I’m not naming names, but who can blame us. With a winter like this, the idea of spring seems more tangible with a slim package of promise or two tucked into your down jacket pocket.
Now I’ll confess, right up front that I’m terrible at starting seeds inside – my house is too small, I barely have room for houseplants, and I don’t have the right equipment. I have friends with grow lights and bottom heaters and those cute little wooden thingies that you use to make newspaper into biodegradable pots, all of which I lust for, but which the dachshunds would make short work of if I set them up anywhere in the house. What I really need is a greenhouse, but I have a list of other home and garden projects that take precedent, so right now, a green house is a luxury I just can’t afford.
But I’m still going to try. I tend to get the packages and sprinkle them in and among existing perennials, a plan that rarely works out well, since I then tend to forget and either weed up the seedlings or remember not to weed and end up cultivating a beautiful crop and weeds with a few seedlings struggling in their midst. This year I am determined to do better.
Some seeds are just so easy they are silly, so of course I have handfuls of those. Nasturtiums in five different shades. Cutting Zinnias in hot pink, white, purple, red and orange. California Poppies in Buttercream — a color that goes with everything and a plant that can handle almost any soil as long as there’s sun and water. Cosmos, cosmos, cosmos – this year I’m going with the Rose Bon Bon Double ones. I grew the Double Click last year and am now crazy about double cosmos. They are definitely “have to have” seeds. And I will tuck Tithonia, the Mexican Sunflower seeds everywhere as I love the color orange. I actually have two packages that I’m going to interplant among the collection of yellow, apricot and white climbing roses I am hoping will soon swamp the veggie fence. I also plant morning glories on the same fence, since the roses are fairly new and I’m fighting the deer to get them to put on height. Last year I had Grand Pa Ott’s – a fabulous deep purple; but today I’m leaning towards Clark’s Heavenly Blue — an amazing sky blue morning glory from the 20’s with huge flowers.
Of course I have to confess that I also bought some specialty primrose seeds from England. Quite a few actually, but since I have no hope of starting these myself, I’m hunting down someone to grow them for me. I think I have a lead; and, if I do, watch out, because then there’s no stopping me. Okay, okay, I confess I also bought some Hollyhocks, Alcea Black Currant Whirl and Alcea rosea Simplex Hybrids. Plus I don’t know how it happened, but there were seeds that jumped into my hands in a hardware store and in a supermarket.
So really, there’s already no stopping me. But I think I’ve just come up with a brilliant business idea – How about a “seed starting” company? Where you could pick out your own seeds, someone else starts them for you, and then when they are ready you pick them up and plant them. I guess it’s the same as buying prestarted plants at the nurseries, but doesn’t it sound more personal? And much more fun? Any budding entrepreneurs out there??
What I really meant to write about today wasn’t flowers. I was planning to write about vegetables. In the winter one of the ways I garden is through the turning of pages and I’ve just finished “Fields Of Plenty” by Michael Ableman. Fabulous book. And just like his mentor Elliot Coleman, he’s inspired me — I want to turn my whole back yard into a vegetal cornucopia. I bought my Mache seeds already, Corn Salad for those of you who don’t buy it in Cittarella in its little plugs, and a whole patchwork quilts worth of lettuces and I’m still going. And for those of you who are thinking about starting things to get them ready to put in the ground with or without your grow lights and heating mats, the trick is to read the backs of the packages and count backwards from our last frost date. There are some nifty little seed starting calculators I’ve been testing on the Internet.
I used May 15th as the last frost date, although I’m not sure that’s completely accurate. I think last year we actually had a very early last frost date, but I tend to used the 15th because it’s a month after the day taxes are due and I always remember the date.
Anyway, according to the one on Johnny’s Selected Seeds it’s time to start your artichoke seeds. Now I just have to run out and buy some.
Paige Patterson is excited about Chioggia Beets with the alternating red and white concentric circles that look like a bullseye. How fab for salads!