14 January 2009

The Pros Grow Seeds in January, Too

There are seeds that you plant directly in the ground outside and others that should be planted in sterile seed starting soil inside.

Cosmos, marigolds, corn and carrots are planted directly into the ground in the spring. Poppy, chamomile and larkspur seeds are planted outside in January.

The seeds of many perennials and some annuals need to have a chance to freeze and thaw before spring weather arrives. Perennial shrubs and herbaceous plant seeds were planted last September so they could get the alternating temperatures (vernalization) they need to grow.

This month, the seeds of onions, leeks, chives, Chinese cabbage, pansy and other cool weather lovers are planted inside.

Pete Carson of Carson Borovetz Nursery said that the seeds to plant now include those that enjoy a cool start such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.

I start peppers now, too, Carson said. Pepper seeds take 14 days to germinate and you need a heat mat under them to give them the 80-degree soil temperatures they need. Home gardeners can put pots of planted seeds in a hot water heater closet or other warm spot.

Carson said to be careful about fertilizing. If pushed too soon, young seedlings will be weak and spindly. You want them to be stout and strong.

Sharon Owen, owner of Moonshadow Herb Farm, said she planted pans full of Butterfly Weed and echinacea seeds outside a few months ago.

This week Owen planted: Thyme, parsley, lovage, sage, fennel, onion chives, Welsh Onions, Greek Oregano, Salad Burnet, Sorrel, Alpine strawberries, Valerian and others.

I also plant slow growing Lemon Grass and White Sage around this time, Owen said. Parsley, Lovage and Alpine Strawberries require a longer period of darkness to germinate, so they're among the first ones I try to get sown. Once they germinate they can be uncovered and on their way growing with the other perennials.

Kim and Doug Walton of Waltons Farm will be selling at Muskogee Farmers’ Market this year.

Onions, leeks and then cabbages should be started this month. They all prefer about 75 to 80 degrees F soil. But watch the cabbage seed carefully. They can emerge in three to four days and will quickly get spindly if they don't have enough light. The onions and leeks are much less picky that way,”Doug Walton said.

Snapdragons, bachelor buttons and delphiniums all prefer soil temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees, Kim said. The delphiniums will do best with a pre-chilling in the fridge for two to four weeks before putting them in soil to germinate.

It is also time for starting seeds for thyme and parsley, Doug said. Both are very slow to germinate, taking 10 to 21 days.

Almost all seeds can be started in containers if they are given the right temperature, light, and air circulation. Houseplants such as Coleus can be started from seed at any time.

Soil temperature indoors is five to 10 degrees cooler than the air temperature unless heat is provided. The top of the refrigerator or water heater may be warm enough but check it with a thermometer to be sure.

Commercial growers pre-soak seeds three to 24 hours. Some use weak manure tea and others use a fungicide soak. Seeds to soak: Banana, mallow and Chinese wisteria.
Consider the plant’s preferred soil temperature, moisture, humidity, and light.

Tropical plants need hot temperatures and bright light. Cool season plants need cool temperatures.

Lettuce and Delphinium seeds are dormant at 75 degrees and must be chilled before planting.

These like a chilly start: Monkshood, trumpet vine, lobelia, phlox, primrose and Columbine.

Buy a few packets of seeds and share them with a friend. Most of all enjoy the process of participating in the growth of new plants. It can lift your spirits in the cold months.

4 comments:

Sally said...

Who says you can't plant anything in January? Thanks for setting the record straight. It's making me want to invest in that plant light setup and get started earlier.

Martha said...

Oh, it's just such fun!

Before we had heat and lights for winter seed starting, winter was plant-free and sad for that.

A two-bulb flouresent shop light and a heat mat is all you need.

If I can help you get started, let me know!

Wayne Stratz said...

wonderful advice

Anonymous said...

Thanks Wayne, I'll take that as a pretty large compliment from someone who teaches gardening.

Are you starting seeds yet?