Saturday, March 28, 2020


In case you haven't heard, the one thing that has not been cancelled is gardening.  In fact, this may be the spring you will have time to start seeds that have been on your list for "someday".

I set up my seed starting table on March 22.  I constructed the light system years ago to fit a 33" x 33" folding table.  The size of the table limits the light fixtures to 2 rather than the 3 as pictured.  I did not use PVC glue  as I wanted to store the pieces in a plastic storage bin.  I did number the pieces and color coded them for easy assembly.

I had been planning on some herbs to start and had ordered winter savory seeds in Febuary.  Winter savory, Saturega montana, is a bushy perennial herb with bright green leaves and small white flowers.  It does not require a lot of water and does well in a container..  The leaves are a combination in flavor of all the Italian herbs: marjoram, thyme, oregano and sage.  The leaves can be used fresh or cut and dried.

Germination of winter savory is listed as 10-20 days.  The seeds  are not covered, they take light to germinate.  The seeded tray is on a seeding heat mat, soil temperature needs to be 70-80 degrees.  I planted 2 seeds per cell.  The seeds are minuscule which ended up being a labor of love and eye strain for several hours. Personally waiting for seeds to germinate is as nerve racking as waiting for childbirth!  I am like a mother hen, I check the table at least 4 times a day hoping to see a seed pop through.

My next hands on adventure was to try a technique that has been in my "try it" file for several years.

The technique involves seeds that require stratification to germinate.

Two terms that are often confusing are scarification and stratification.  I found the following definitions helpful and easy to remember.  Scarification is the process of cracking the hard outer shell of a seed to promote germination.

Stratification is the process of fooling seeds into thinking it is winter.

A friend shared sea holly, Eryngium, seeds last fall.  I should have followed the recommended process of direct seeding then in late fall.  But, you know how that goes--the best laid plans---etc.

There are several methods of stratification.  One is to place the unopened packet of seeds in the refrigerator for several weeks, you'll get better results if the seeds are damp.  The next method would be to place the seeds on a damp paper towel and roll them and place in a plastic bag to chill in the refrigerator for a week.

A third method appealed to me.  The method is using ice cubes.  Fill an ice cube tray half full of water and freeze.  When ready to seed, set the tray on the counter for a few minutes to thaw just long enough to get a thin film of water.  Drop several seeds on each cube, then carefully add more water to the cube and refreeze.

On March 23 I planted a half-flat with seeding mix and the ice cubes.  The ice cubes were  sprinkled with a small amount of seeding mix so that when the cube melted, the seeds would be lightly covered.  I planted a second half-flat with seeding mix and seeds that had no prior chilling treatment.  I moved the flats to the greenhouse which is not heated.  Now we'll play the waiting game and let nature take over.

What is left of my forsythia started blooming on March 25th.  I checked my journal and it usually blooms between the 27th and end of March.  The deer really had their way with the bush this winter--lots of broken branches and pulled out saplings.  The cycle for years has been when the forsythia starts blooming within 2 weeks the daffodils start blooming.  Not sure for this year.  I checked and the daffodils are only up about an inch.  Is this another sign of a dry winter?

Check out Gardening:  Get Good At It: "The Best Irrigation for Your Plants" segment Tues March 31 on KPOV 88.9 FM between 9-9:30 am.

LATE BREAKING NEWS--Couldn't help myself, had to check the winter savory and three cheers, I could see 2 very tiny dots of green!

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