It’s mid-February, so the seeding has increased in pace here in Zone 5b, central Indiana. At least, it feels like 5b at 16 degrees F this morning with a thin layer of snow on the ground. We dodged the latest winter storm, which just caught us on its bottom edge. Counties north of us got lots more snow and ice. Supposedly, the new official Zone map has moved us into Zone 6, but I gardened in Zone 6 for sixteen years before moving up here, and this definitely does not feel or behave like Zone 6!
Regardless, the seeding is happening on schedule, with lots of new additions due to the “Growing Kindness” project bouquets that I’m planning. The flats shown above have “Rainbow Mix” chrysanthemum left front, with “Duchesse” asters behind. The center flat is recently sprouted “Mammoth Choice” sweet peas, and the channel flat far right has rows of just germinating seeds (peppers, stock, strawflowers, craspedia, calendula.) As you can tell, there are small quantities of lots of different things because I’m experimenting with timing, pushing the envelope to get crops started earlier than my usual time-line because now I have the berry box “coldframes” to enable some earlier planting out. Plus some things, like the “Rainbow” chrysanthemum and craspedia I’ve never grown before, so I’m trialing different times and methods. Not sure I like the channel flats because things really tend to dry out so quickly in them that it requires checking twice a day instead of once….
This plug flat of stock and snapdragons is another experiment. They are going to be hardened off next week, and hopefully planted out under a berry box “coldframe” the following week. I’ve never planted them outdoors so early before, but they will go into raised beds in the potager that have had the berry boxes on to help warm the soil a bit, and get a layer of frost cloth at night if the temps fall too low. Trying to get some early blooms to go with ranunculus.
Yesterday these “Bodestoltz” dianthus seedlings were transplanted into a soil-filled bulb crate. I’ll let them settle in for a few days, and then they will go out on the patio on nice days (assuming we have some!) to begin hardening off as well. Half went into the crate, and half will go into a raised bed just to see which (if either) do well and produce flowers early. The dianthus roots had nearly filled their plug cells, and I needed the plug flat for annual statice babies so it was a good time to move them into crates.
The front of the left flat is one of my very favorite plants, the tidy, dwarf “Gold Moss” feverfew. It holds its golden foliage color from earliest spring all the way through the furnace of summer, through frosts and freezes to January, when our below zero temps finally cause the leaves to brown and shrivel for the most part. If they have good drainage, there are a hardy perennials and push out new leaves just as soon as the days get enough light and the soil gets just a bit warm, often looking great when the crocus bloom! I love them and always need more. Behind them are a few lemon savory, which is an absolutely delicious, lemony herb with deep, dark green narrow leaves and tidy growth habit. Most of those are destined for the garden club plant sale. I’ll soon pinch the tops so they will branch out and become a mound. Behind the savory are a few dahlias from seed. It’s always so fun to grow a few dahlias from seed, just to see what one gets. Already there are some with deep burgundy stems and some with very pale green stems. These are “Showpiece” variety, which should be good for cutting, but I’ve also got some cactus-type and “Bishop’s Children” singles seeds on the way. I love the singles in bouquets, and the bees adore them.
These flats are mostly rudbeckias (“Prairie Sun,” “Sahara,” and “Cherry Brandy) along with a few yellow-flowered feverfew and a few of the earliest stock seedlings. They are growing “low and slow” which is what I want…growing in the coolest area of the basement so they have lots of root growth, but not a lot of top growth yet. They will be among the first plants to get moved into the greenhouse, hopefully in another week or so, if the nighttime temps quit dropping into single digits and low teens, along with the crates of ranunculus and snapdragons. The greenhouse heater can’t quit cope with temps that low so they may have to wait a bit, but I think they will be fine in the crates on the cool basement floor to promote root growth.
Most exciting of all, the Lisianthus are finally growing and are filling up their 72-plug trays. You may recall that I started them using 3 different methods: soil blocks, open flat, and channel flat. Those in the open flat grew by far the quickest. Those in the channel flat were a pain because they dried out so quickly. Those in the soil blocks just sat there after germination and barely grew for weeks on end. Finally, I plopped the soil blocks into these 72 plug cells, and suddenly they took off! Next year, I’ll seed in open flats and transplant into the plug trays, because that has produced by far the biggest, healthiest plants. And, the “ABC”series seems to be growing much faster and hardier than the “Arena,” “Voyage” or “Soiree” series so unless there’s a significant difference in flower size, color, production or stamina, the “ABC” will be the choice.
The vegetables haven’t been forgotten, in fact today is “Fava Bean Seeding Day!” Already seeds for shallots, celery, rhubarb, onions, cipollini, peppers and several herbs have been sown so the potager will still be producing plenty of food for the two of us, and no doubt some extra for friends and neighbors. Meanwhile, the sun is shining more, before the snow I spotted some Tete ‘e Tete daffodil tips poking through the soil, and more seeds are arriving in the mail each week. It’s an exciting time of year!