Dahlias and Asters and Eggplant, Oh My!

Petunia comes as a pelleted seed

Things are really heating up under the lamps this week. I planted a bunch more seeds, including a few annual flowers.

Shock Wave Petunia is a tricky plant to grow from seed. First, the seeds are so tiny that they have to be pelleted. That means that they have a coating to make them more visible and easier to handle. You have to sow the seeds and remember not to cover them – they need light to germinate. After they sprout, you need to move them somewhere cool – about 15C – in order to have them grow at a steady slow pace so they retain their dwarf growth habit. That’ll be tough for me, as I don’t really have any place that gets light and is that cool. Oh, and did I mention that the seeds cost $8.95 for a pkg of 20? I sure hope they turn out as magnificent as the photos at T & T Seeds.

Impatiens also need light to germinate. I’m sowing Giant Flowered Super Elfins Blend which should give me a nice display of uniform pink blooms on dwarf plants on the north side of my house.

Aster and dahlia remind me of each other; colorful multi-petalled flowers that bloom for several weeks in the late summer. Their seeds couldn’t be more different, however. Dahlia have large seeds that are planted a 1/4 inch (5mm) deep and aster have tiny seeds that are placed just below surface. I sowed several seeds in each pot, as I was using some old seed and I’m not sure how viable it is.

I have some leftover Viper’s Bugloss seeds (Echium Rubrum – which always reminds me of Redrum from The Shining) from Bedrock Seed Bank  that I sowed directly last year in early spring. The plants didn’t seem to have enough time to develop into the 1+ meter tall plants I was expecting, so this year I thought I’d sow them early indoors.

Finally, I planted two types of eggplant this week as well. The 55 day Hybrid Hansel and an Asian Ping Tung Long that looks yummy on the package photo. Neither like to be transplanted, so I started them in large 3″ pots where they will stay until they go into the garden in May.

I want to get my herbs started this week as well – parsley, thyme and basil. I guess I’d better get at it and stop all this unproductive writing (grin).

Pots and pots of seeds

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Seedy Sunday 2011

Seeds from Edmonton's Seedy Sunday

This year Edmonton’s Seedy Sunday was held at the Alberta Avenue Community Hall on 118th Avenue. It’s an opportunity for city gardeners to get together and share their ideas, accomplishments and of course, their seeds. 

The City of Edmonton had representatives on hand as did the Edmonton Horticultural Society (EHS). There were plenty of seed suppliers and of course my favourite – the seed exchange. I picked up some Blanket Flower seeds (Gaillardia Glandiflora) and some Winter Lettuce to sow directly outdoors as soon as the soil warms in my frigid garden.

I also bought a package of Oriental Greens Mix by Harmonic Herbs (what a great company name!). I thought this mix might be awesome in a planter next to the back door for a supply of quick flavourful greens to add to summer salads.

I picked up a couple of cloves of Korean garlic to try out this year. I already have several elephant garlic planted last fall, but this will be a nice addition for a more zesty flavored garlic.

I was given a sample of Seed and Sea, an organic fertilizer blend produced locally by Alberta Organic Garden Ltd. I’m going to test it on my garden in the spring and report back about my experience. Apparently it’s a balanced mixture with not only NPK, but additional micro and macronutients which will make our gardens grow more rapidly. 

Seedy Sunday always has interesting speakers, and I wish I had been around to hear Dustin Bajer. Dustin coordinates a sustainable garden at Jasper Place School, teaching the importance of permaculture and environmental stewardship to his students. 

I’d love to see Seedy Sunday become bigger – grow if you will – to incorporate more variety of product and displays. I guess that the more people hear about it, the more interest there will be and the further it will expand.

Personally I’m going to do my part to increase local awareness by joining the Edmonton Horticultural Society and participating in (and blogging about) the programs, speakers and tours they have to offer.

Seed & Sea Fertilizer

Eight Weeks and Counting (to last frost)

Starting to get a bit crowded already

Right now is the easiest period of seed starting – those quiet first few weeks before anything has begun to germinate. Once things start to grow, it takes a whole lot more work and energy to keep all of the tiny plants happy and healthy. 

Yesterday (on the spring solstice) I planted my tomato seeds and my Spanish onions. 

I started by soaking my pots from the bottom a few hours in advance of placing the seeds. This gives the planting medium a chance to be thoroughly moistened, which is critically important to germination. 

I like to use the bottom of a similar pot as a guide to mark the seeding holes, and a pencil with an elastic wrapped around it to control the depth. Maybe I’m just a bit retentive, but I like the look of evenly spaced plants. 

Onions aren’t keen on being transplanted as they develop so I planted four in each four inch pot, and they’ll stay there until it’s time to be transferred outside. 

I dropped two tiny onion seeds in each 1/4 inch (5 mm) deep hole and covered them with sand. Labelling each and every pot is so important that I can’t stress it enough. You may think you’ll be able to tell one from another a few months from now, but don’t count on it. 

These eight pots (32 plants once I remove any duplicates that come up in the same hole) were placed under my grow light and covered with plastic to help keep the soil moist until they germinate. 

Tomatoes need to be started well in advance, as they take a good eight weeks to grow sturdy enough to be transplanted outside. I love tomatoes, so plant four different varieties to enjoy; three are bush varieties and one is a staking tomato. More about that in a later post. 

Using a pencil to make a trough the length of my flat, I placed 9-10 seeds in each. I’m hoping for 50% germination, but I’ll pinch out and transplant any successful seedlings as soon as they have a set of true leaves. That’ll be in a few weeks, and I’ll blog about that when the time comes. 

Truth be told, I don’t need that many tomato plants, but I can’t help but plant more than I should. I’ve never had a friend or neighbour turn down a free tomato plant, and it never hurts to give away what you have excess of. 

Once the tomato seeds were sown, I placed them under the lights and next to the peppers from last week. They should germinate within the next 7-10 days. 

It’s starting to get crowded already under my lights and I’ve only just begun!

Nine Weeks to Last Frost

Pepper seeds in a row

Here we go. I started my first seeds on Sunday March 13th – Serrano Peppers and Jalapeno Peppers. Here in Edmonton I’m assuming it’ll be safe to place my plants out on or about the 15th of May. 

I use Pro-Mix, a peat-based starter with MycoRise Pro. MycoRise is a symbiotic fungus which helps root development and reduces transplant stress.

It’s important to allow the starting medium to absorb water first before planting, so I placed my long narrow containers in water and gave them a good soak from the bottom up. Once the water had thoroughly drenched the soil I removed the containers and allowed them to drip off any excess.

I made a 1/4 inch (5 mm) trench the length of the container using a pencil, then placed the seeds approximately 1.5 cm apart the length of the row. I like to place the seeds on edge to reduce the risk of rot. I covered the seeds with 5 mm of light sand and carefully marked each row with a marker cut from a plastic yogurt container.

I made custom clear plastic covers from a dollar-store tablecloth and placed the seeds under my lamps. Once they begin to sprout I’ll remove the plastic covers to allow them to breathe more freely. I have them under artificial light for 14 hours per day and the room is about 21 degrees C.

Now its just a matter of waiting…10-15 days for germination depending on the soil temperature. By the time these sprout I’ll have planted my tomatoes, eggplants and some hybrid onions – but that’s for next week’s post.