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A Window On My World

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Packet of Seeds Makes a Lot of Plants

A packet of seeds makes a lot of plants ... unless the packet is ten years old - or older!

Finally! I have had a spring when I could try the seeds I'd collected over many years (both gathered and purchased), plus some I ordered new.

Results? I was surprised at how good the germination rate was for seeds several years old. Those really old were dead, of course, which was sad because they included the pink tomatoes that a friend gave me. Her husband grew them in his organic garden. She is dead now several years and her husband has retired and moved back to Hawaii. I would love to have been able to keep his heirloom tomatoes going, but other things crowded them out of my life.

Of the new seeds: Perennial seeds, I've found, are tiny as dust and very tricky to start. From one pack, I have only two very tiny delicate little plants; I'm not sure they will make it.

After many years of collecting or buying special seeds and thinking, "This is the year I can start plants from seeds." - finally it has happened; it all came together. This spring there were no new grand babies I needed to go inspect nor new parents to support, no ill or dying parents, no trips I was required or expected to make for anyone else, and no real estate calls demanding my attention.

So after taking a little longer than usual to recover from the most recent trip (it took me about ten days to recover from a trip to Indiana, which isn't so far away - Fibromyalgia is "such fun" :) out came the seeds in almost-early-enough spring.

Started under lights in our small dining area, then hardened off in the garage and close to the house, the baby plants were not too much trouble to bring in and out as frost sat on us.

The small plants in small containers grew and were moved into larger containers - that took up more space. The old seeds tested in various low wide containers needed to be pricked out and each given its own little cell - oops! - trays of cell-packs take up more room than plastic, disposable Wendy's salad bowls with clear lids. And, so it went, more and more and more. Now at May 17, we are past our May 10th historic frost date for this county; frost is no longer the threat. The problem now is way too much rain!

I move everybody out to the fresh air and light.
It starts to rain.
I move everybody back in.
When it stops - out they go again.
And so it goes - sometimes three times a day (I am so weary of moving in and out, in and out, on and on), and guess what! Now there isn't enough room in the garage to get everyone inside even though some plants were planted into the ground and some given away to a neighbor and some to another friend or two.

So now, those left outside in days and days of rain are turning a sad yellow and brown. More need to go into the ground, I better get out there and get started, but I just remembered today is the day a new helper will arrive and needs to be given the orientation and training, so not much progress will get done, I'm afraid, and nothing will get planted. We'll see.

This view from the Garden Door in the garage shows various pots and trays placed in the sun or semi shade as required. It took watching to see they didn't wilt down with too much sun or needing a drink. I had to keep shifting them about as the sunny spots moved.

Containers were placed all along the edge of the back brick walkway.

This is turning left out the Garden Door going toward the Back Door steps and stoop.
Watering was a constant chore.

The steps made handy "shelves" for morning sun and was conveniently near the garden hose.

The next view is what we would see if we had turned right out the Garden Door.

This is a good view of the half whiskey barrel that was planted with herbs.

A work table was covered each day which made hand watering easier with no bending over. Those that needed shade were put beneath this table and yard chairs and small tables. During the early spring while it was still quite cool, the black driveway asphalt helped keep them warm. As soon as the days grew warm, all of these had to be moved to the cooler back yard and back steps.

I had plants everywhere.

The garden cart made a helpful mobile holder. I could move it into, or out of, the sun, whichever was needed. Then at night it was rolled back into the garage. As soon as the weather was right, many were planted into the ground, then more small ones were put into the cart until they were large enough to pot up into larger pots and placed on the back steps.

As much attention as I gave them, there still were losses. I understand why plant nurseries are called, "nurseries". I felt I was in charge of many, many babies that had to have individual attention all day. I gave away as many plants as I could find homes for. It was fun loading down any takers and sending them home with boxes of plants. That made it worth all the trouble.


Esther Montgomery said...

When I was a child, there were 'back stairs' for servants (so they didn't have to use the same ones as 'the family'.)

They had gone out of use (seeing we didn't have servants!) but they (the stairs) were dark, draft free - and rose behind the coke-burning-boiler, and were warm.

This is where we germinated seeds.

Your plants arranged on the steps remind me of that staircase.


Barbee' said...

Esther, what an interesting peek into your private past.

Helen said...

Hi Barbee - welcome to my world. I am addicted to growing things from seed and have today spent several hours moving trays and pots around to make room for my tomatoes in the greenhouse. I got the greenhouse last year and I am even more addicted than before. yes I have seeds that dont germinate but I also have those that do well and I have had to train myself just to prick out enough not every single little one. Its wonderful when they reach full size and flower - a real sense of achievment

Babs said...

Okay, you've got me beat. I was bummed about the hassle moving around four big plastic ice cream buckets full of seedlings, under the eaves, then out to the sun, on a cold night, into the entry way.

I was also feeling bad that I have so many green pepper and tomato seedlings, maybe 10 of each (I'll be able to use 4 or 5 or each tops.)

But, like I said before, you definitely have me beat. Every which way you look at your house, more seedlings! You have been very very busy this spring!

That garden cart is brilliant...sounds like a life saver and maybe a back saver too!

Barbee' said...

Helen and Babs, I think it is an addiction! I'm hoping to donate many of these to a plant sale that is coming up next weekend. Funds will go to scholarships for women 25 years of age or older at the University of Kentucky.

Couldn't do anything today because the wind was ripping - had to rescue everyone and hunker down, batten the hatches and play around in the garage. Wow, do I need a barn!

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

Barbee, I have a cart out in the garden right now full of veggie seedlings. I need to find homes for my babies too.


Cinj said...

WHEW! That's a lot of work. I tried growing seeds once so far. My first attempt wasn't very successful, but I'm not willing to give up yet. I plan to try again now that I have all of my supplies back together. I hope everyone is able to find a good home!

Barbee' said...

Hi Debbi and Cinj, Aren't they little miracles! Each and every single one of them.

Amy said...

Wow, when you decide to grow plants from seed you really go all out! This is so great. What fun to have all those new plants for your garden!

My mother has fibromyalgia and it is *so* hard to travel (and do much of anything sometimes). When you mentioned how long it took to recover from your trip I was thinking you must have it, before you even explained it :)

Barbee' said...

Hi Amy, how perceptive of you to identify my abnormality while reading between the lines.

Too many seeds, I know. Husband/Best Friend/Chief Photographer has said more than once that I overdo things.

Anonymous said...

Yay, I can finally see your verification letters and post a comment! (Stubborn thing, aren't I? I just keep trying.) Your seedlings look fantastic!!! Good for you for making the effort to start your own plants from seed. Then you can be sure of getting what you want instead of settling for what's commercially available as transplants or bedding plants! true, packets usually contain tons more than you'd ever need, but that's a great excuse for swapping or donating some, isn't it? (Or just saving part of the packet for the following year.)

Barbee' said...

OFB, good for you for sticking with the effort of trying to comment with the illusive now-you-see-it now-you-don't verification letters. I was about to ask if you'd cleared your browser cache lately, but didn't because I had read comments on other blogs where other people were having the same problem. When that happens to me, I try refreshing the page, then if that doesn't do it, I change browsers.

Working with seeds has been a lot of fun, but I think I need to find someone with a greenhouse who will start my seeds for me. For like you say, this way I can have what I like and not just the same old-same old commercially available.

Karen said...

"A Packet of Seeds Makes a Lot of Plants", except when I plant them. LOL.

This year I haven't had much luck with mine. All of yours look wonderful!

Barbee' said...

Thank you, Karen. Maybe yours are perennials. I was not really successful with them. The annuals did great.

Catherine said...

A woman after my own heart! I love it when people take the challenge, and sow seeds. It's so rewarding to be able to walk around your garden and recognize your own babies.

James said...

barbee' - there just isn't anything like growing something from seed that makes you feel like a parent of sorts. I mean it takes a lot of work, but the end result is something else. :)

Your stuff looks great!

James said...

Also... we found an two old packets of seeds while going through my Grandfathers house from 1978... was wondering if they would grow. After a bit of searching, figured they would not.

Hermes said...


with very fine seed try mixing in a little sand, preferably silver sand, which makes them easier to handle, spaces them naturally and seems to help them germinate / grow. Great post.

RIGreening said...

I've found it fun to be able to recognize some plants when they are very young; a talent that comes only when you've raised and nurtured those varieties yourself!

Esther Montgomery said...

Hope mentioning you in the sidebar of ESTHER IN THE GARDEN is ok.

If not, let me know.


Anonymous said...

You must have quite a collection of seeds. And a lot of hard work has been put in this spring. We all can't wait to see the "fruits" of your labors.


J said...

Barbee, WOW! That's a lot of seedlings! And they look wonderful. Can't wait to see where you plant them all.

I had a hard enough time moving my five pots of dahlia tubers off and on the fire escape this spring. The choreography you describe is inspiring!

Garrett Sawyer said...

Thank you for dropping by! I am flattered that you actually think I'm even remotely smart. My blog isn't so much on "gardening" as it is on everything else. I've not included very many garden related entries since I created my blog but as soon as I am settled into college and have a job to support what my gardening habit has become I shall have more garden related postings. Again, thank you for visiting my blog, I didn't think anyone would find it so soon since it hasn't been long since i've been on Blotanical, I suppose I was wrong. lol.

Sorry to read about how rough it is with having fybromyalgia. My father who recently passed away last summer had it along with rheumatoid arthritis. I think I am starting to experience those a little also and I'm oh so young! It's not too bad but it starts out with your joints helping you predict the weather and what you'll be doing for the day.

Ugh, seed starting, I don't even want to touch the subject right now...I don't do so well with brand new seeds even. Maybe with my new growlight I'll be able to turn out a handful more things than I usually do. lol.

Brenda Hyde said...

oooh Barbie---that is a lot of seedlings and plants! Way to go:) Now, you will have to tell me what did best, and what you liked the most. I am a collector of seeds too, and never get to plant as many as I want.

Barbee' said...

We have been away a few days visiting relatives in other states, then we returned and had Out-of-Town Daughter, Son-in-law, and Grandson here for a few days.

Our oldest grandchild graduated from high school in Georgia. We attended that event and the huge party his parents had for him the next night at their house. It was a shrimp-boil and luau with complete Hawaiian theme because he will be leaving in August for the University of Hawaii where he will major in International Business.

But, now I am back, had two days of rest to recover, and the garden is a mess!

I appreciate all the recent comments.

Catherine: I agree totally, but don't think I will ever do that many again.

James: Yes, it is a lot of work, mainly because I do not have the set up for doing that: no cold frame, green house, etc. That is interesting about your grandfather's seeds. Even if they wouldn't grow, I suspect that was like a nearness to, or a contact from, him when you saw what he had. I wondered if they were some he bought or some he collected and if they were labeled so you knew what they were.

Hermes: Thank you for your kind words about my post. And, double thank you for the tip about mixing the fine seeds with sand before planting.

Heads up everyone who is thinking about starting seeds: Did you read Hermes' advice? Hope I remember that the next time I open a packet and find very fine seeds. Isn't it a miracle that rather large perennial plants can grow from such tiny things?!

RIGreening: Yes, it is fun. Sometimes it is easy to identify them, but some young plants are so different from the adult. Isn't it amazing to think about those first leaves being in the seed before they begin to grow.

I have read a suggestion that I think is a good idea. When planting seeds of plants that I have not grown before directly into the ground, it is a good idea to plant a few in a pot. When they sprout the pot can be taken to the newly planted area to compare with what has come up there. Then the gardener knows what is a weed and what are the new babies to be nurtured.

Sam and J: Many of them have been given away and put into a plant sale, so there aren't so many left now. In spite of the work, it was fun. Not sure I will ever do it again, though.

Hi Garrett: Thank you for popping over here. Yes, I think you are smart to learn to sew and make things and do for yourself. It sounds creative. I thought your post about that was interesting. Even if a person never creates something new, to be able to do mending and to be able to re-work a piece (Well, I guess that would be creative.) is so self-reliant and "smart". My father was totally helpless when it came to cooking or sewing his mending; then when my mom died he was simply lost. My husband can do all of that. I'm not so sure it was a difference in generations, as much as the difference in personalities.

I did click on the link to Christian Siriano which you had in another post (Do I detect that you admire him?) and watched/listened to the videos there - after turning off the music so I could hear what they were saying. I watched that season of Project Runway without missing a week. Never watched it before, nor since, but that particular group of designers was so personable and talented I was totally drawn in. He and Chris were especially fun.

Glad to hear you are going to college. Hope all goes well for you.

Brenda: I planted the dwarf sunflower "Big Smile" in pots to give away and sell, but they soon got powdery mildew so that did not work out. The yarrow was such teeny seeds, I got only one successful plant. Many of the old seeds did not germinate, of course, but surprisingly, some did. Others such as chives, borage, and mallow did great.

Walled Garden said...

Hello Barbee, thankyou for visiting my blog and making such lovely comments. I too have a half barrel by the back door that I hope to turn into a herb garden for the kitchen and....Garlic Mustard! Of course it's native to England and recently I went on a guided walk to learn more about the plants that grow along the river bank here, and that was one of them and we all had a taste. Some people took some home to shred into a salad.
Cheers Gillian

Barbee' said...

Gillian, that is so interesting! Thank you! Thank you! A walk along the river bank to study the plants there sounds lovely. So, garlic mustard is native to England! That does it, I am going to eat some of the young plants.

Esther Montgomery said...

Hi Barbee!

Welcome home!

I'd noticed your absence around the place!

Looking forward, now, to your next post!


Pomona Belvedere said...

Hello Barbee,

What a beautiful greeting by your garden photo when I opened your blog!
I enjoyed reading your adventures with seeds, and also all the commenters' stories about seeds.

I also collect way more seeds than I can plant. (I felt better about this after a friend who sews says she collects patterns to imagine about, not necessarily to actually make up.)

My experience and research show that seeds--at least some varieties--can stay fertile a long time. They germinated some seeds from an Egyptian tomb--I can't remember what kind. Anyway, it's worth trying those ones from 1978, you never know. And it is interesting to know what your grandparents grew, I was fascinated by a seed catalogue my great-grandfather used.

joey said...

You have been ONE busy gal, Barbee. Good luck with your babies!

Barbee' said...

Esther: Thank you. We had fun, but it is good to be back. Tomorrow will be a busy day with no time for the garden. We are scheduled to help with local grandson and several other things on the to-do list. We better put our skates on when we get up in the morning or take off running.

Pomona: Thank you for your kind words about the header photograph. I plan to change it with our four seasons. Spring is almost over. And, what an interesting comment about seeds and your great-grandfather's seed catalog. I vaguely remember something about the Egyptian seeds. I think they were some kind of grain - or, did I dream that.

Joey: Hi, thank you for coming over, and leaving well-wishes.

To me: Catalogs are for dreaming over, and seeds represent hope.

Elizabeth said...

Hey, just visiting via blotanical and your comments on my blog!

Your garden is so beautiful! I'm not inspired to make the view from our back door as serene as beautiful as possible. Wow.

Barbee' said...

Hello Elizabeth: Thank You! for the happy words - so glad you enjoyed your visit. I do not have any strawberries, though, and yours look so good!

Anna said...

I'm glad to hear that so many of these germinated cause I didn't get all mine planted this year. There was just too much to with my move and all. You did a grand job. Bravo. Your gardens look so nice and lush. I hope you are feeling well enough to enjoy them all.

Barbee' said...

Thank you, Anna. Yes, don't throw out the old seeds. Germination may not be 100%, but is it ever?

Kerri said...

Barbee, I can relate to your seed experience, having done the same thing this spring. Yes, the constant care is very time consuming, and I too feel like I'm looking after a lot of babies :)
I had them under grow lights for several weeks. Most did well, some didn't, and I've lost a few too.
I've also been moving them in and out...oh, what a pain! I can't wait to start planting! Then I'll need to water. It's an ongoing job, but we do enjoy watching them grow and bloom, don't we? :)

Barbee' said...

Oh, yes, Kerri, we do. I hope you will have lots, and lots of survivors so to make the effort worth while.

I am sorry about your sweet cat's untimely death. At the last house, I had to have my beloved 16 year old cat put to sleep for she was in pain. It was one of most difficult things I have ever done. We buried her under the crabapple tree, and I planted forget-me-nots on her grave. Now, when forget-me-nots bloom, I think of her.