Archive for the ‘Starting plants’ Category

Free Flowers, Eventually

I got some seeds of peach-leaved bellflower, Campanula persicifolia, a few years back in a seed swap and have been meaning to start them ever since.

My Goal: Peach-leaved Bellflowers

I may as well take a few pictures while I do it and document my success, or its lack, if it comes to that.

For a seed tray, I used a plastic restaurant take-out container, the kind with a clear cover that snaps on.  The clear cover lets in light, which is reportedly needed for campanula seeds to germinate.  It also keeps the seeds very moist, which is a good thing since they sit right on top of the planting mix to get the light they need.  Without the cover, they could easily dry out and then no plants for me.  Once most of the seeds have germinated, the lid comes off immediately.  Seeds may love to be constantly soaked, but wet plants are known to be an invitation to a fungus party.

The seeds and tray went under fluorescent lights in my basement, where they stayed between 70 and 75 degrees F.  The seeds germinated surprisingly well, for being five years old, to the point that I had to thin the herd quite a bit, taking out at least half of them.

Today, 18 days after planting, it was time to prick them out of their seed tray, as British gardeners say, and put them into individual cells.  (American gardeners seem to avoid that particular phraseology.)  I had about forty seedlings, so I used a 48 cell tray, also known as a 1204.

Separating the Seedlings

To get the seedlings loose, I used a big pair of tweezers to stick into the soil and lift a small group of plants.  I could then just use my fingers to pull them apart into individual plants and stick the little guys into their new homes.

Finger pokes made the holes in the soil.

To bed, little guy.

A trickle of water in each cell helped settle the new soil around the roots, and back under the lights they went to recover and, with any luck at all, to grow up.  I’ll post back here from time to time with a photo and news from the Campanula family.  Pretty exciting stuff.

Update Photo:

Looking pretty good — 6/29/2012


When these got bigger, I gave some to my sister, who called back in a couple of days to tell me that the plants were primroses, not campanula. Someone in the seed swap got a little confused, I guess, but they’re still free flowers — just not what I needed or wanted. I stuck them in a little corner garden by my barn and we’ll enjoy them next spring.


Springing Forward Into The Field

Memorial Day weekend is when we northerners are pretty sure it will be OK to plant without fear of frost. Well, maybe a little fear, but it usually works out. It was a year ago today that I had a little health problem that convinced me to take the summer off, but I’m back at it again for this summer.

Here at Tom’s Gardens I have about 3000 flower starts to get in the ground and Saturday was the start of it.

This is a start, anyway.


A lot of dirt to fill.

I have a big (for me) field to fill up with flowers, and I hope to have all the little babies in by next weekend

Some Progress Is Being Made




Bells of Ireland Success

I grow Bells of Ireland every year, but I never get as many as I want. I’ve found that the re-seeders from the previous year always seem to germinate better than the ones I try to start. To take advantage of that trait, I sowed a row of them last fall so the seeds would get the full outdoor winter experience. I also froze and soaked some on the advice of something I read somewhere.

The seeds I sowed last fall are in fact coming up! I was just out and looked under the row cover that was protecting the seeds, and there are quite a few seedlings popping up. I am really happy that this worked and would do an Irish jig if I could. I guess I know how to grow Bells of Ireland now. Yippee.

I also had some of the soaked seeds left over and two weeks ago I put them in a 72 cell tray. It has been sitting on the floor of the greenhouse since then. So far I have only three seedlings in there.


Got Spring?

It may be 21 degrees F right now, but it must be spring if there are baby plants in the greenhouse.

There are dianthus, trachelium, and digitalis basking in the sunlight this morning, with lobelia, millet, asclepias, and rudbeckia still under lights in the basement.  There’s no heat in the greenhouse, so these little guys will be brought back inside this evening, and every evening for quite a while.

It’s easy so far, with only 17 trays going, but in another month I’ll be swimming in plants.  I’ll also be in Seattle for a week, and I don’t know exactly how I’m going to get the plants cared for when I’m gone.  I may put them in my hoophouse and cover them with a couple of layers of row cover.  Then I can probably get a friendly neighbor or relative to water them a couple of times.

So yes, I’d say we have spring.

My Homemade Vibrating Seeder

I just made a seeder that I’m hoping will be a good substitute for the Vibro Hand Seeder.

It was pretty simple and if you would like to see how I did it, go to My Homemade Vibrating Seeder.


No sooner did I get this posted, than Speedy Steve G. from Virginia showed me one he did in about a minute.  A bent piece of cardstock, a piece of tape, and wham, bam you have a seeder.    Pretty cool, Steve.

Steve's version

Started So Far

Unless you’re into plant lists, this won’t be the most fascinating thing you’ve ever read, but maybe there are some people who like to know this kind of thing, mostly other flower sellers, I suppose.  At this point, about a month before our probable last frost date, these things have been sown, in addition to those I mentioned in previous posts.

Snapdragons, Rocket Mix

Monarda panoramagreenhouse421b

Ageratum, blue and white


Centaurea macrocephela

Tanacetum, Crown White

Cosmos, Versailles

Amaranthus, Autumn’s Touch

Amaranthus, Opopeo

Way back on April 4 I planted some bachelor buttons (Centaurea cyanus) and  Bells of Ireland in the cold, cold ground of the field and the BBs have been up now for about a week.  Those little seeds just amaze me.

I’ll be starting celosia and a few other things next week.  I learned a lesson about celosia last year, starting it eight weeks before last frost in 72 plug trays.  The plants grew pretty fast, got really crowded roots and even dried out a time or two (my fault, of course).  They weren’t good for much after that, but did manage to make some usable plumes by late August.  I’m hoping that starting celosia four weeks before last frost will be just the ticket this year.