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Seed Starting 2023 and Save the Date for our Plant Sale

February 1, 2023

Real gardeners are not letting grass grow under their feet; they are busy starting seeds. By starting seed indoors you can extend a plant’s growing season, scoop up new and varied varieties of seed rather than depending on garden center transplants, and maybe even save money. Packages of seeds are so much less expensive than transplants.

The Master Gardeners at Raincatchers Garden have seed starting operations in their homes.

This is Joe Armitage, Class of 2019, and his set up with LED lights. He started Tasmanian Chocolate and VR Moscow tomato seeds on 1/10/23.

Jackie James has a simple set up in her sunny window for seed starting and uses reading lamps to provide extra light.She enjoys up cycling take home containers. They work just as well as store bought trays with humidity domes for germination.Pimento peppers planted January 14th are already sprouting.

Peppers in production are:

Mad Hatter, Purple Jalapeno, Lemon Spice Jalapeno, Orange Spice Jalapeno, Aji Amarillo, Hot Hungarian Banana Pepper, Cherry Bomb, Pimento, Shishito, Fish Pepper, Hot Pops Purple Ornamental, Santos Orange Ornamental, Wicked Purple Ornamental. 

Sheila Kostleny has started pepper seeds for the North garden at Rainctcher’s and our plant sale. Sweet Jimmy Nardello, Northstar Hybrid, Gypsy Hybird, Habanada and Early Jalapeno are in production.  

As seen on the bottom rack, Sheila is trying paper towel germination for Marconi Sweet pepper, Tam Jalaepeno and Rainbow Blend Lunchbox Peppers.

Jim Dempsey uses a grow light with three trays and each tray holds two 72 count seed trays. He planted the peppers around January 18 and plans to start tomatoes in the next few days. Next he will plant flower seeds.

Jim has a total of 175 peppers in this tray.

These seedlings will be potted up and planted at The Raincatcher’s Garden in the spring. Many varieties will also be sold at our plant sale in May.

Ann Lamb, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2005, with input from Beverly Allen

NEWS-OUR PLANT SALE AT THE RAINCATCHER’S GARDEN IS SCHEDULED FOR MAY 4TH!

Natural Inspiration

In the “paint” world, each new year begins with the big reveal. For 2023, Pantone has taken inspiration from the natural world with the announcement of Viva Magenta as their color of the year. Described by the company as a powerful and vibrant shade of red deeply rooted in nature, it promises to be “bold and fearless” while adding a joyful and optimistic tone to your interior.

Pantone’s glamorous appeal is convincing; “Viva Magenta descends from the red family and is inspired by the red of cochineal. The cochineal beetle is an insect that produces carmine dye, one of the most precious, strongest, and brightest natural dyes the world has known”.  They add, “it was chosen to reflect our pull toward natural colors.”

Seems the botanical industry has taken notice with promotional ads now featuring a stunning array of floral options for your landscape. Not surprisingly, it would be difficult to find a flower that more dramatically captures the true essence of “magenta” than the zinnia.

As you can see from this stunning photograph, I was, indeed, “drawn in” and quick to imagine the perfect sunny location for it in my summer garden. It’s from The Gardener’s Workshop in Newport News, Virginia.

The name and description they’ve given this zinnia is impressive; ‘Uproar Rose’. It is being held as the next knock-out zinnia by cut flower growers everywhere.

My seeds have been ordered and will be planted directly into the garden after our last danger of frost. I’ll follow their very professional harvesting tips:

*Harvest the blooms when fully mature.

*Make the first harvest cut above the bottom two side shoots as this establishes a branching habit for the season.

*Make future cuts at the base of the stem.

Linda Alexander, Dallas County Master Gardener class of 2008

THE JOY OF SELF-SEEDING PLANTS—WITH A SIDE OF CAUTION

July 11, 2022

Lovely and tough plants for free—who wouldn’t want that??  Great plants that often carry memories of gardens and gardeners long gone can be yours; plants that in many cases would be hard to find in a shop.

Pollinator gardens are perfect for self seeding plants.  They attract and nourish the bees that carry out the pollination for one thing  Seeds cannot form with out pollination.  The garden and the bees need lots of plants and flowers—big  and small simple and complex—all sorts of plants and flowers.  Perennials are the backbone of the garden, of course ,but the bees and butterflies need flowers for as long as possible and as many of them as possible—so annuals are a must have.  Planting lots of annuals can be expensive.  There is the cost of buying them of course and that can be significant.  But its not the only thing to consider.  Think of all those plastic pots—really the world needs a lot fewer of those no matter how hard the gardener may work to recycle.  Then there is the growing medium—what really is involved with that—something to think about!. Those plants were likely transported from a distance—another cost.  It takes time and effort to plant them and additional water to get them started.  

Plants that come back all by themselves—those are starting to look better and better.

So why aren’t they loved by all???  There is no perfection in this world and there are no perfect plants.

There are so many good things about self seeders—they come up at the right time for them and seem strong from the very beginning without special effort to get them established.  

But they aren’t perfect and the faults cannot be ignored.

One of the big problems is—they come up where it suits—them—not the gardener!  The middle of a garden path often seems a great place.  How to get around this—some plants will have to simply be pulled out but be alert often young plants can be easily transplanted to  a different place with minimal effort.  A bigger problem can be sheer numbers.  This is so variable some years seem to favor certain plants and at times the self seeding can be for the gardener—way too successful.  Again, be alert its almost always very easy to simply pull out the tiny plants—remember just because you have too many a friend may have none—a sharing opportunity.

They are not predictable every now and then—they don’t come up as expected.  Its always good to save some seeds from treasured plants—remember its not so easy to obtain these plants.

The last—but significant problem is that for a plant to self seed—it must form seeds!!  Seems obvious right—but the gardener can fail to realize that this means the plant must fully mature, flowers cannot be deadheaded.  Unfortunately—this is rarely a pretty sight. 

The circle of life must be accepted.  However—this does not mean that every plant has to be allowed to go to seed.  Choose only the best plants—the others can be deadheaded or removed altogether.  In allowing a few plants to go to seed the gardener not only ensures new plants for the next year but look at it as an educational opportunity the whole cycle can be explained to garden visitors—maybe even share a few seeds.

On your next visit to Raincatchers pollinator garden be sure to look for self seeded plants—and try some in your own garden.

Susan Thornbury, Dallas County Master Gardener Class of 2008

Rather than being broiled outside in our summer heat, read about these self-seeders indoors with a glass of ice cold tea:

Separating the Seeds from the Chaff

That Doesn’t Look Like Milkweed!

Amaranth

Hopi Red Dye Amaranth Growing at The Raincatcher’s Garden

The leaves of Hopi Red Dye Amaranth are edible and the plant is commercially grown in southeast Asia and India for this purpose.  I haven’t eaten the leaves but was told by a neighbor that in India the leaves are quickly cooked in a hot pan with garlic and chilies and are delicious.

The tiny seeds are also edible and are often part of ancient grains mixtures.  The seeds have to be separated from the flower petals which is harder than it sounds.  The high price of amaranth products is justified!  When just a few plants are grown, which is usually the case since they are huge, one could try popping the seeds in a hot dry skillet and using them for a snack or for salad topping. This has been my plan for a long time; this may be the year!

Close Up View of the Beautiful Amaranth Seeds

Amaranth were once very common plants and should be again.  They are not difficult to grow and add that touch of drama every garden needs.

I will be glad to share seeds just come and ask. You can usually find me at The Raincatcher’s Garden in the butterfly habitat on Tuesday mornings. The seeds should be ready to share in a month or so.

Susan Thornbury
Pictures by Starla Willis

More Seed Starting Tips

Gail Cook has been a Master Gardener since 2003. She has worked at The Raincatcher’s Garden for many years and now has a new job with us. She is planting herb, flower and vegetable seeds. It’s a perfect job for her; she a nurturer. 

Gail, I heard you are doing a wonderful job with seed starting for the edible landscape. In December, I had the privilege of hearing from Jim about his seed starting methods.
I was wondering what equipment you use. Seed starting mats? Grow lights?Any tips you want to give our blog readers about seed starting. Do you mind letting me know of the potting mix you use? Do you purchase or make your own?

Hi Ann, How nice to hear from you!

Honestly, I’m in one of my happy places starting seeds and, with everyone’s help, we’re doing well with the seedlings. I don’t even have a back yard these days, just a long narrow brick patio with a bit of sun and a small utility deck with a 4-shelf zip-up greenhouse.

I have one warming mat and it does speed things up. To save time ( I can plant 72 seeds in minutes this way)and space, I’ve been starting most seeds in 72-count plug trays from amazon in clearance and seed starting mix from Walmart. There are 300 plugs germinating on my upstairs bathroom counter now. Then I pot them up in 4” pots right after germination.

I’m still working on mixing potting soil with perlite and/or vermiculite to get a lightweight soil because I haven’t found a brand I love yet. Northaven Gardens has a recommendation in a recent email that I plan to try when I can look it up. Some seeds go straight to the greenhouse once planted, depending on weather. It can be tricky to keep the soil at the just right level of moisture but we haven’t had a problem with damping off, even though they stay fairly wet with almost daily misting.

I’m also experimenting with diluted organic liquid  fertilizer after the 2nd set of leaves appear to get them to transplant size as quickly as possible. This requires patience. 

 The Raincatcher’s greenhouse is a huge help during colder weather, as are the other edible garden volunteers who check on the seedlings. I’ll come back to you on soil mixes. Don’t hesitate to remind me. Busy time at work just kicked in, another reason I enjoy the seeds.

Best, Gail

Gail Cook bringing borage seedlings to the Raincatcher’s greenhouse.

Gail writes again:

A couple more tips: Peat moss can be difficult to moisten so add water to the seed starting mix before filling pots. A bucket and your trowel are useful for mixing. 

When using a heat mat indoors or a greenhouse on warm days, monitor closely, preferably twice a day. The soil dries out very quickly and seedlings will fail to germinate or grow. Seedlings should be removed immediately from the heat map as they germinate, as they no longer need the warmer temperatures.

Gail’s Greenhouse

 

This little greenhouse is from Tuesday Morning  and is on it’s 4th winter. It is in a protected area and doesn’t get much direct sun. There are a few patches over tiny holes but it still works. I’ll probably buy another next year.

 My husband has started referring to the seedlings as our children because they are taking up so much of my time.                                                        

 

 

 

 

If you are feeling overwhelmed with all the information and purchase recommendations, Gail suggests starting with easy lettuce and greens for the first season. Simple can be better for beginners. Have fun!

Thank you, Gail.

Ann Lamb

 

Seed Starting Indoors

Jim Dempsey has been starting seeds indoors at Jim and Martha’s house for about 25 years.  Martha indulgently clears space, putting away her craft tables, so Jim can have room for this project every year. He grows tomatoes and peppers and several varieties of flowers from seed to get ahead of Mother Nature and have sturdy seedlings ready to transplant into the spring garden before it gets too hot.

And there’s also the issue of variety. Jim says you’ve never seen so many choices. He likes to order tomato seeds from Tomato Growers and flower seeds from Park Seed and Burpee. Along with Celebrity tomatoes, he selects a few heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and seeds of early varieties( those that mature within 52 days). Last year one of his successful selections, a yellow pear tomato, was so productive; he just got tired of picking them.

Jim with knitting needle for planting seeds, and journal and plant containers

Materials Needed:

Journal: Jim suggests keeping a journal so you have some idea of what works.  For instance, He realized he was starting seed too early and has now set his start date as February 1st for seeds for the spring garden.

Containers and seed tray

Seed Starting Mix: Jim uses Miracle-Gro potting soil which contains fertilizer. You can mix your own potting soil with a 50-50 combination of fine sphagnum peat moss and vermiculite and fertilize with  fertilizer diluted to 1/2 strength.

Seeds

Plastic wrap or plastic cover

Plant Labels-Always label your pots as you plant the seeds

Grow Light

Heated Seed Mat-Jim did not use a seed mat until 4 years ago when Dorothy, another Master Gardener, gave hers to him. He says it helps his tomato and pepper seeds germinate.

Getting Started:

Fill the cells or pots with moist germinating mix to about an inch below the top.  The soil mix should be moist not soggy.

Jim uses one of Martha’s knitting needles to make the holes for the seeds. Follow seed package directions for planting depth. He uses the blunt end of the knitting needle to tamp the seed down. Seed to soil contact is important.

He suggests one seed per cell when using fresh seeds. 3 seeds per cell for older seeds.

Cover the seed tray or flat with saran wrap or a plastic cover. This keeps the soil mix from drying out. Check it every day and add water to the plant tray from the bottom if the soil begins to change color which means it needs water.

Place the seed tray near a bright, sunny window and/or use a grow light.

The grow light should be placed close to the top of the cover or plastic wrap.

Jim’s seed flats with grow lights

It usually takes 7-10 days for the seeds to germinate. Take the plastic wrap off when the seedlings emerge.

Seeds germinate at varying temperatures.  Plan to use a seedling heat mat if needed.

Seedling Heat Mat

Transplant seedlings into 4 inch pots when you have your first two sets of true leaves.

Before placing your new seedlings in the garden they must be hardened off. Start by putting the new plants outside for a few hours in the shade. Then let them stay outside overnight and then for a few nights. The night temperature should be in the 50° range.


Thank you, Jim, for giving us your time tested instructions and personal tips for starting seeds indoors. You have inspired me to start tomatoes on my window sill!

In the next few days, Gail Cook who is starting seeds for the edible landscape will share with us.

Ann Lamb

Seed Starting Indoors

Garden Betty’s blog has been an inspiration to me. The name Betty resonates deeply because of my Mom, Betty Haughton, who was a Master Gardener, class of 2008 and then there’s the fantastic organic practical horticultural information you will want to absorb.

Click here for The No Brainer Guide To Starting Seeds Indoors by Garden Betty and then listen up to what Jim Dempsey, our seed starter says:

 

Last year’s zinnias and peppers started indoors and then moved to the greenhouse.

 “I use a grow light because I have no sunny location in the house. Our pepper seedlings (slow to come up and slow to grow) are just now coming up. I plan on planting the tomatoes mid- February (in the past I have started too soon)  and our flower seeds shortly after that. Weather permitting, we would like to plant the seedlings (4″ pots) by first part of April.”

 

 

 

 

 

Ann Lamb

 

 

 

Poppies

The poppies have been beautiful this year at The Raincatcher’s Garden.  Each plant has a story. The plant starts life as a seed, which germinates and grows into a plant. The mature plant produces flowers, which are fertilised and produce seeds in a fruit or seedpod. When it dies, seeds are left behind which germinate to produce new plants.

We thought you might want to see a few poppy pictures, as a part of their story.

Poppy Bud Ready to Open

 

Poppy close up 2016 008

Pink Peony Poppy

When the petals fall away, it’s time to collect the seeds.  The foliage turns grey and the seed pod becomes brownish. Wait for the seed pod to become ripe. The top of the pod opens and the seeds readily fall-1,00’s of them. The life cycle of the poppy begins again.

Ann

Pictures by Starla and Ann

Poppy Culture: Next October be sure to plant  poppy seeds in a sunny, well drained spot. Water them to keep the seed bed slightly moist if the weather is dry. You will be rewarded for many years to come with poppies in your garden.

We are collecting seeds to share from our pink peony poppies. We hope you will visit our garden.

 

 

National Seed Swap Day, Saturday, January 30, 2016

seed collage with edgeWe have had a tradition of saving seeds at our garden. We carefully collect seeds, bag them, and give them to garden visitors. When Whole Foods Grocery at Preston Forest called and offered to let us participate in Seed Swap Day, we thought this would be a win-win situation!

 Volunteers from The Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills will exchange seeds as part of the National Seed Swap Day from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 30. Whole Foods Market at Preston-Forest will host the fun event filled with garden ideas and live music. Volunteers will offer flower seeds and donated gardening books, promote RGMH, and help children make seed mats with zinnia and cosmos seeds.

Ann

Pictures by Starla

Click for Sage Seed Advice

 

 

 

Starting Seeds Indoors-A Contest!

Mnemonics and memory prompters are a good way for gardeners to remember important facts and dates. 

Around Valentine’s Day, February 14?  Time to prune your roses.

Do you have a better way of saying, other than “Treat Seeds With Loving Hands,” the five critical elements for growing successful transplants discussed in yesterday’s post?  If so, please let us know.

Above:Hyacinth Bean Vine Seedling Ready to be Transplanted

Above:Hyacinth Bean Vine Seedling Ready to be Transplanted

As Ann , the Demonstration Garden’s coordinator, said “There is a lot of interest in gardening but so little real depth of knowledge.  I think of some of the things I hear at the garden centers when I am shopping and feel so bad that plants and seeds are going home with very little chance of survival.  Young gardeners are so handy on the computer but not always in the dirt.  Maybe we can help with that.”

So, put on your creative gardening hat and let us know your suggestion for a way to easily remember the five  elements for successfully starting transplants from seed. The best suggestion, as judged by several of the Joe Field  gardeners, will receive  5  packets of seeds collected from our Demonstration Garden.

Help us teach the general public how to easily remember how to germinate seeds.

Carolyn

Picture by Starla

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