Seed Starting: It’s that time of year.

For being a long time gardener, I am not the best at starting plants from seeds. Last year was probably my most successful year, and sadly, I attribute that to my cats dying the year before. The cats, interested in the smell of dirt, and subsequent germinating seedlings, pulled the new plants out before they got the chance to establish themselves.

Last year, I planted zinnia seeds with my garden club students at our April meeting. In late May, I brought them back to school so the same students could plant them in the school garden. It was very rewarding. The plants continued to grow well and were still flowering in September, attracting late migrating Monarchs to our waystation. Even though I picked largely different plants this year, I kept the Purple Prince Zinnia because they were so prolific! I also think I now have a soft spot for them because they successfully germinated in my house.

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Lest you think I stole the potted seeds from the students, they also were able to take some home to grow and enjoy.

This year, I want to repeat my success in seed starting. I  bought native prairie plant seeds from a local nursery in the fall. You can check out a prior post about these selections here, in Seed for Thought.

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So, yesterday, I started my first batch of seeds. I picked two types of milkweed to add to the three I already have in my yard. New this year, pending successful germination, will be Whorled Milkweed and Short Green Milkweed. I experimented with a planting technique of adding layer of paper towel over the soilless medium to keep the seeds moist. They are now under my grow lights, labelled and ready to come to life.

Another batch of seeds, albeit less exciting, got started yesterday as well. These were more Purple Prince Zinnia, Genovese Basil, and Yellow Pear Tomato. Recently, we have enjoyed caprese salads, of which fresh basil is a key component. I’d like to grow the basil so I do not have to buy the poor, plastic packaged pieces from the grocery store and can have this simple salad on demand.

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The plants for our garden at school were selected with great care this year. I poured over a seed catalog with a theme of Peace in mind. All the plants were selected, as seed, for this specific theme. If there was a connection to PEACE, I put the seeds on my list. Last year, I did a little preliminary research on Peace Gardens. There is a beautiful and large PEACE pole in the center of the school garden near the entrance to the building. This year, each grade level will plant one species of plant that , in some way, represents peace. It might be the plant’s color, or a history of the plant that has come to have an association with the theme of piece.

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The other really neat part of this year’s plants is that they will all be grown from seed by a teenager in a nearby town, who has his own greenhouse business. All of them! Last year, we got some marigolds, petunias, and snapdragons from him. They were among the healthiest plants I have ever had the pleasure of planting and growing! This student is getting all of our business this year and will be supplying this school with all of its plants!  I will be sure to post about the plants, their significance, and how the planting went when we are finished at the end of May.

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Spring is a time for new life. The annual plant life cycle reinforces that again and again. Witnessing it from the warmth of my own home, or from the success of a student with a penchant for growing, inspires me to try, once again, to do something that has not been easy for this gardener – start seeds.

Time will tell how I have done.

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