Fried Bananas

Fried Bananas
in full sun with purple petunias

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Winter Sowing

Seeds sleeping away the winter on the back deck.
The idea is simple you sow seeds in the Winter in containers and put them outside in the cold.  The seeds freeze and thaw and freeze and thaw a few times and then they emerge in the Spring when the soil in the containers have warmed up enough.  Here's what my containers look like.  The containers that I used are plastic food containers that fruit or vegetables come in.  Any container with a translucent top will do.  You can even use plastic milk bottles.  There are a number of advantages to doing this.  Firstly, it allows a gardener to sow lots of seeds.  You just don't have room for this amount of seedlings under lights or on your South facing windowsills.  Secondly, many seeds do much better going through the freeze/thaw cycle that occurs naturally in the Winter.  Since the containers are outside they get enough sunlight and you don't get problems with fungus gnats or damping off fungus, that come with indoor seed sowing.  The downside is that you have to wait for the soil temps in the containers to reach 50, 60 or 70 degrees (depending on the seed) to germinate.  So you are only slightly ahead of those who sow outside in the Spring.  The Petunia that you see intertwining with the Hosta at the beginning of this blog was one I Winter sowed last year.  It took longer to get going than the ones I bought in the garden center, but by July they had caught up.  Here's the list of what I sowed this year:

  • Cleome Rose Queen and White Queen
  • Cosmos Sonata White and Peppermint Candy
  • Alyssum Carpet of Snow
  • Datura Ballerina White
  • Salvia Summer Jewel Red
  • Coleus Limelight and Coleus Palisandra
  • Zinnia Starlight Rose
  • Impatiens Sunny Lady White and Pink
  • Petunia Wave Purple
  • Liatris Floristan White
  • Foxglove Digitalis Monstruosa (actually biennial)
  • Milk Weed 'Red Swamp' (got to feed the butterfly caterpillars)
  • Eryngium Gigantum (Sea Holly)
  • Eryngium amethystinum
Some of these will go in the White Garden, some will end up in containers and some plants will go into the new mixed border off the back deck.

Meanwhile the Hosta seedlings that I sowed back on December 19th have germinated and are growing under lights in the spare room in the basement.  I had to clean that room out and set up an area where I could put a table and a four foot light stand.  Here's what they looks like.
  The first photo is of seeds from Hosta 'William Lachman' x OP (open pollinated).  There are lots of streakers and interesting looking seedlings in this flat.

The second picture is a flat of seedlings from Hosta 'Epsom Derby' x OP.  This one also has a number of streaked seedlings  as well as some seedlings that look gold or blue.  The streakers may stay that way or they may stabilize in subsequent years to variegated plants or solid color plants.  All in all I've got about 100+ Hosta seedlings right now.  Once they develop two or three leaves each, I'll move them into little 3 oz cups.  At that time I'll cull some of the seedlings that are all green or look uninteresting to me.  I've got a couple of small seedling beds in back of the deck that will house these and I plan to make another seedling bed in the holding area next year.  I'll grow these on and we'll see what we come up with.  Maybe a new named Hosta cultivar!