Monday, January 19, 2015


The Master Gardeners' demonstration gardens at the county Extension office are brown and covered with leaves. But we
know spring is coming because we just signed up for our 2015 Master Gardener projects.
Recent warmer than usual days have me thinking spring. It won't be too long before green shoots poke up through the soil. In fact, a friend recently posted photos of her snowdrops pushing their way out of the underworld. On Saturday I signed up for my Master Gardener projects for the coming year -- Public Education, Hotline, Spring Fair and manning the Master Gardeners' booth at the Farmers Market. So many opportunities to talk about gardening!

Today I moved several wheelbarrow loads of compost onto the garden, where the spring kale, broccoli and cabbage will find a home about mid-March. A couple of days ago, the bed where the snap peas will climb their trellis got covered in compost. Later this week, the beds slated for spring lettuce, carrots, radishes and other quick-growing, cool-loving veggies will get attention.

Already I've received word that one shipment of seeds is on its way. Another, larger shipment has been ordered as well. I've purchased oat seed and crimson clover seed that I will plant as summer cover crops along with buckwheat. I am looking forward to having a large bed of buckwheat roaring with dozens of honey bees seeking its rich nectar. The crimson clover also will attract bees.

By the end of this week I will have started the broccoli, cabbage and lacinato kale in little pots. They will warm themselves next to my woodburning stove until little green sprouts show against the black soil. Then they will find a home beneath lights in the front room.

But first, tonight I will plant seed of some hardy perennials.

First I found several translucent gallon-size vinegar jugs. Milk jug work well, too. Pretty much any tall container made of clear or translucent plastic works, but the gallon jugs are handy,

Then I cut and poked holes in the bottom of each jug and cut nearly all the way around the jug about 4 inches from the bottom. I left a piece uncut so the top remains attached to the bottom.

Fill the bottom with damp potting soil.

Plant the seeds,

Close the top and tie it closed by punching a hole near the top of the bottom and one near the bottom of the top and attach them with a pipe cleaner, twist tie, string, twine, wire, whatever works.

Set the finished jugs outside where you will see them frequently and remember to water them from time to time so the soil does not dry out. Yes, the soil will freeze. Then it will thaw. Then it will freeze again. That's the idea, since many of the wildflowers germinate best after a bit of freeze-thaw, called "stratification" in horticulture terms.

This method provides a better germination rate than sowing the seed
in the garden, and you won't be left wondering whether the little seedlings are your black cohosh, echinacea or some weed. What's more, the actual planting process can be done in the comfort of your garage, or kitchen,

When the plants are large enough, just lift the soil-and-root ball, divide and plant.

Easy. Right?

The only problem is that I only had three empty vinegar jugs and at least seven different things I wanted to start this way, with more such seeds on their way. If only I had remembered this little trick before I went to the recycling center the last time.

No comments: