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Archive for seed starting

Spring’s shown its face, now I’m a believer!

It’s been the kind of day that even melts the resolve of those with the frostiest of dispositions. Chicago had a record-setting March 14 — hitting 80 glorious degrees!

Forecasters caution that the temperatures likely aren’t here to stay, but — for a city that’s reveled in unseasonably warm weather since early February — pardon us if we choose not to believe.

And we’re not alone in our complete disdain for the prognostications of Punxsutawney Phil and his ilk. Nature seems to have joined us in a conspiracy to usher in spring earlier than reason would dictate. Trees and flowers are giving in to the spirit of “carpe diem” and pushing up the date Read the rest of this entry »


Color my world… with lavender – it’s a real ‘scent’-sation, too

Lavender has so many uses, not to mention it smells wonderful.

A new lavender plant, in a well-weathered pot, is set to move out to my balcony for summer.

Lavender. If its loveliness isn’t enough to justify its existence, just wait for a gentle breeze and inhale: the aromatic herb’s knockout fragrance will doubtless seal the deal.

I have a friend who’s been a longtime lavender booster, and about four years ago I joined the fan club. And, as we’ve been discussing using herbs in the kitchen, let me say — modestly of course — that my lavender cookies have become legend.

Lavender can be used in many other baked goods, too. And, I also use powdered sugar flavored with Read the rest of this entry »

Seeds of time: a couple of fast starters for slowpoke gardeners

Nasturtium seeds are large and they sprout quickly.

Nasturtium seeds sprout quickly, so they'll make up the time lost if you procrastinate.

Winter blew out of Chicago a few nights ago with thunderous exultation. And the rain rained down. The next day temperatures reached 80. Of course it’s cooled off a bit since, but there is the definite feeling that the worm has turned (yes, a pun for you in-ground gardeners).

Even Burpee is on board. Three of the plants I ordered from them arrived on the very day that temperatures soared. So, container gardeners start your engines… we’re just three short weeks or so away from the time when we can introduce our plants to the great outdoors.

If you haven’t started any seeds yet and are lamenting the fact that because you’ve procrastinated you’ll have to spend more money and buy all your plants from a nursery, fear not… Read the rest of this entry »

The good earth: last season’s soil may be right for reuse

Someone forgot to tell these sprouts that they shouldn't survive outdoors in containers over the Chicago winter.

Even though this soil has been subjected to the elements, healthy sprouts are popping up.

I love getting my hands dirty. In fact when I open those big bags of rich, fluffy potting soil mix I don’t even bother to wear gloves — despite my manicured fingernails. It is one of those joyful rituals that mark the start of what will hopefully be another rewarding season of container gardening.

But hold on, what about the soil left in the pots from last year? Isn’t it wasteful to just dump all that dirt? Is there any way to recycle it for this season’s planters? These are questions a curious city gardener posed to me recently. And Earth Day Read the rest of this entry »

The circle of life goes on and more seeds come out

Heirloom tomato seeds sprouted quickly.

Heirloom tomato seeds sprouted quickly.

The tax man notwithstanding, mid-April brings with it many a happy harbinger of spring: Tomorrow’s weather forecast puts Chicago in the 70s, we’ve had a couple of days of fitful April showers, the heirloom tomato seeds I planted just last week have sprouted and now, in their new sunny location, are bowing their heads in deference to heliotropism.

Life goes on.

And so does my planting. I’m about to start a second wave — this one just for flowers — and pulling out the 72 peat pellet tray for the occasion. I realize that if you’re a first-timer it’s hard to imagine that these slight seedlings will become strong, fully developed plants, baring flowers and Read the rest of this entry »

A quest for true blue? Prepare for shades of gray along the way

This hydrangea is blue, but some petals are replete with hints of purple.

Even though this hydrangea is a vibrant blue, some of its petals display hints of purple.

It may not be up there with the search for the grail, but gardeners’ quest for “true blue” flowers can be equally elusive.

For a couple years now, blue has been the object of my garden affection. I’ve built my color scheme around blue and hunted for seeds and plants of that hue.

That passion took hold of me at the grocery store Read the rest of this entry »

It’s showtime: pellets and seeds today, tomatoes tomorrow

Peat pellets expand in minutes, so it's not quite like watching paint dry. (See slideshow below.)

Peat pellets expand in minutes, so it's not quite like watching paint dry. (See slideshow below.)

They don’t look like much right now, but the small peat purses I’ve tucked safely away in a mini-greenhouse will, with a few seeds and a little luck, produce a bounty of heirloom tomatoes by mid-summer.

I finally chose four seed varieties to join my two stars (black plum and sun-sugar hybrid) in this year’s garden. Yes, I know I said I was only planting four or five heirlooms total, but I was so intrigued by my options that I decided to try and squeeze in an extra pot. So, drum roll please . . . Read the rest of this entry »