In the Garden: March 2017

By Peg Keenleyside

Starting From Seed: Easy annuals to start from seed 

In these last months of winter, you are usually content to just curl up to flip through a few garden magazines, admiring all the lush displays of flowers and foliage and thinking how your own budget will never stretch that far.

But you’d be wrong!

The way to get that really abundant look in your summer garden without having a big budget to shop with is to do some seed starting.

Starting flowers (and veggies) from seed does not have to be the daunting process you might think. There are a ton of online and in-person resources to get you started.

Just one of those resources, West Coast Seeds, is located close by in Ladner Village. They have an information-rich catalogue that you can pick up that tells you about starting dates for seeds in our planting zone area. An added bonus is that they provide you with the certificate you need to bring your seed packs into Point

If you’re just getting started as a gardener or you’ve never started plants from seed, the best recommendation I ever got from green-thumbers was to start learning with easy-to-grow annuals. These are seeds that will reliably germinate and carry on into the transplant stage without a lot of fuss and just some basic tending on your part. (But you have to water! That’s rule one –never let your seeds dry out in their starting trays!).

As we head into the warmer days of spring, most of these easy-to-grow annuals can be started outdoors using just some kind of night-time covering like a mini green house. There are many online resources for these and other seed starting gear, but do also check with Lady Bug Nursery in Point Roberts for what supplies they offer.

Easy-to-grow annuals: Early starting:

• Sweet Peas

• Lupins (can also be perennial, meaning they’ll come back next year)

• Snapdragons

Late spring/early summer starting (can be started outdoors):

Nasturtiums, Sunflowers, Zinnias

Sweet peas, those old-fashioned fragrant favorites, come in all kinds of colors and while traditional varieties are tall and need a trellis to climb on, newer varieties are low-growing and look and smell sensational at the front of your garden.

Lupins were my first-ever seed-starting experiment and they are so easy that you will probably end up having to give a few plants away! Tall purple spikes of flowers are their main claim to fame, but they also come in other colors. Look for the variety “Russel Hybrids” for pinks and yellows. Plant them in groups of three for a great effect.

Snapdragons can give you all kinds of long-lasting annual color and will pop right up out of your seed starting pots or trays in no time. Plant transplants out fairly close together so you get a big eye-catching mass of color. They are also great candidates for window or railing boxes.

For all my seed starts I like to use the little jiffy peat pots set in trays. The great thing about peat pots for the first-time seed starter is that the transplant – the 1–2 inch plant you’ve grown from seed – does not like to have its roots messed with, and the jiffy pot can be put out in the ground as is.

Edible nasturtiums are just the thing for around the vegetable garden or raised beds. They are great in pots as well and will ramble here and there for a great cottage-garden effect for just the cost of a pack of seeds.

Sunflowers are always a welcome sight (for birds and people) and you can put some seeds in the back of your garden bed up against a fence or wall in the early summer and, with a little constant watering until the stalk emerges from the ground, just let them carry on to maturity.

Zinnias, like snaps, give you a whole lot of color bang for your buck. Lots of people direct-seed zinnias in late spring right into the garden, forgoing the seed starting pots altogether. They are superb in a mixed border of perennials and annuals where their big daisy-like flowers come up like happy exclamation points.

If you can’t resist starting some seeds this year, now’s the time to go online or get out to West Coast Seeds and get started!

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