It’s All In The Timing

Rosemary now blooming in the greenhouse

Ever since we first set foot in Bear River, one lesson has been repetitively driven home. “It’s All In The Timing”.  Certainly our experiences with the tractor, the honeybees, and setting up the greenhouse and orchard have all echoed this sentiment. My latest lesson to bring this point home has revolved around growing perennials from seed.

I have to admit here that I’m a bit of a seedaholic. If I ever stumble across something that is a bit unusual or exotic, and it has a seed, chances are that I’ll buy it if only to see what comes up once planted. Out west I actually managed to germinate Loquats and Jackfruit from grocery store purchases, and now I have Lemon and Pomegranate seedlings set to move to the greenhouse.  Late last fall, I began to think that I should try growing some less readily available Lavender plants from seed. We could easily use the seedlings to boost our field planting, and any extra would help us save some money in landscaping the grounds.

Since I already had a packet of seed, and with the season winding down, I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained. The seeds were planted in flats with only one month to go before Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. I planned to start them in our spare bedroom, and keep them growing through late winter. By the time the sun rolled northward again, the plants ought to be a decent size, or so I thought.

Three Lavender seedlings still struggle

Well, it really is “all in the timing”. By applying a little bottom heat, over a hundred seedlings rocketed out of the ground, eager to find the sun. Unfortunately they had sprouted in the depth of winter. In spite of being placed in a south window, the tiny seedlings grew long and spindly in their search for light. If that weren’t enough, they were so fragile that most were lost to damping off. Seedling after seedling fell over in the prime of life, rotted off at the base, all this in spite of having been planted beneath a fine layer of sand. Yesterday (March 15th), I moved the five survivors to the greenhouse. Three of these have survived the move. I hope they live to see the light of June.

All the Arisaema seedlings are thriving

This first effort began in November, and everything looked promising through mid January. With that in mind, I started a new batch of seeds shortly after the new year. These were for an exciting and unusual species of “Jack In The Pulpit” (Arisaema consanguineum). These seedlings also rocketed out of the ground, but since their germination coincided with lengthening daylight, they are thriving where the Lavender seedlings failed. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to start early. It really is all in the timing!

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4 Responses to It’s All In The Timing

  1. suzanne says:

    We just planted our tomato seeds the other day… it’s an exciting time of year eh? Spring is definitely in the air today ;)

    • Gordon says:

      Martin and I were greeted this morning by a sure sign of Spring… the ice has vanished from our ponds, and last year’s tadpoles are starting to get active (surfacing from time to time for gulps of air (I guess metamorphosis is coming). I’ll be planting our Basil, Hot Pepper and Tomato seedlings early next week now that the greenhouse is holding heat through the night without powered assistance.

  2. I had to laugh when I read this… I’ve grown way too many leggy sad plants; even though I think the conditions are perfect, they don’t seem to agree. Last year we lost more than a few from our sunny windowsill, and more didn’t survive because we probably planted them out when the soil was still too cold. I’m so impatient to get started, but this year Janet’s in charge, and she is bound and determined to wait until the right time. I suppose she’s right.

    • Gordon says:

      I’m finally getting over some of my gardening impatience. Reminds me of childhood when I’d plant bean seeds and dig them up to see if they’d finally sprouted. Thankfully that level of impatience vanished many decades ago. One way around the “leggy seedling syndrome” I’ve been told is to move the seedlings into a cooler location as long as the light remains as bright as possible. What I still struggle with is how to avoid fungal “damping off” without having to resort to chemical solutions, especially since we plan to submit application for organic certification this year!

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