Randi V.W. Eckel, PhD

January 16, 2015

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It may be January, but we're busy, busy, busy!

Folks often ask us what we do all winter... They are often surprised to find that we are usually just as busy here with winter chores as we are in the summer! What keeps us so busy? So many things...carefully hand cleaning, packaging, & shipping seed; planting & cold stratifying seeds; experimenting on seed propagation procedures for new species; writing & updating descriptions; creating new line drawings; lecturing & running workshops, & so much more! So, don't worry about us...we're not bored! As a matter of fact, we are just putting the finishing touches on our all new 2015 catalogue! If you would prefer to 'save a tree' & not receive a printed copy of our 2015, please let us know. As always, all that good information will be available on our web site...along with a complete list of all the native plants and seeds we have available for you this year.

Seed Starting Notes

OK, so we've talked enough about cold stratification over the past year; we thought you might like a few other notes to help you out if you are starting seeds ...

How to spread tiny seed?

So you find that you have something like Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), or Monkey Flower (Mimulus,), and you wonder how you are ever going to spread that seed evenly! Here is an easy trick: mix your seed with a little clean sand. This dilutes the seed and so allows you to spread out the tiny seed & see where you have been!

Screens can really help.

If you are cold stratifying seed pots outdoors, cover them with a bit of screening. Squirrels, mice, voles and chipmunks love to dig about in loose soil and they can really make a mess of your propagation flats!

Light is really important!

If you are starting seeds indoors make sure to use artificial light, get it right down close to the seedlings, and give them nice long days (14hr+). We all remember those sad seedlings that we tried to grow (or our classes in school tried to grow) on the windowsill. Sometimes this works just fine (depending on the plant species) but more often it does not and you wind up with very thin, tall, pale seedlings stretching toward the light. Proper light quality and day length can make a huge difference!

Fertilizer is good stuff, but be careful.

Native plants will often do just fine in a garden setting with little or no fertilizer. Seedlings, however, are another matter. If you are starting your seeds in commercial potting mix, it likely has little or no nutrients so your seedlings will really appreciate a little fertilizer once a week or so after they have emerged. Do be careful, however, and make it half strength so you don't burn your seedlings. They are very tender when young and full strength fertilizer can really do some damage at this stage.

Don't try to pot up those tiny seedlings to fast!

It seems that a lot of folks are a bit too excited about their little plants and try to transplant them when they are still quite tiny. New seedlings are quite susceptible to mechanical damage, disease, and drying out for the first couple of weeks. Let them get at least one set of 'true leaves' before you try to transplant them.

Protect those seedlings from frost!

Just because the plant you are growing is perennial does not mean that the seedlings can survive freezing weather. Some seedlings, like Giant Hyssop (Agastache) and Violets (Viola) are quite tolerant of cold weather. Others, however, like Milkweed (Asclepias) are NOT! This actually serves the Milkweeds quite well. In the wild, the seedlings will not sprout until the soil is fairly warm and, consequently, the days are rather long. Milkweed roots do not develop properly under conditions of poor light and short days.

Harden off your seedlings.

Seedlings grown in greenhouses or under artificial light can be very tender and not ready to deal with direct sunlight, rain, or even wind. Introduce these things to them gradually over a week or more to harden them off before planting outdoors.

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