Note: This is multi-part post updated on different dates.
March 28. Vernalizing Seeds in the Refrigerator
We are about 8-9 weeks away from our average last frost date and it is time to start some seeds indoors. Yesterday I planted red and green oak leaf lettuce outdoors in a grow bag. We will have mild weather this week so hopefully it will germinate. I am prepared to cover it up with an insulated box if we have a hard freeze, which is certainly not out of the question here!
I also have some seeds in the refrigerator which need a period of cold weather before they will germinate. If I had planned better, I would have simply sown them outdoors last fall and let nature take care of it! I’ll definitely be doing that with some native wildflowers this fall. I currently have showy milkweed, monarda punctata, and Whipple’s penstemon in the fridge.
I took some sterile seed starting mix — not one with fertilizer. I used Fertilome, which I got at my local nursery. I put about a half cup of moist mix in two zip-locs, and one plastic container with a lid. I put in the seeds and mixed it up well with my hand. I labeled each with the date they are due to come out. Whipple’s comes out April 17, the others May 4. I’ll update this post to let you know if I was successful with this method.
April 10. Finally Planting Saved Delphinium Seeds
Today I’m planting some butterfly delphinium (delphinium grandiflorum) seeds indoors in a small flat. I saved them from plants in 2017 in the event that they did not winter over- they didn’t. They will go on the basement windowsill and hopefully germinate in around 18 days. D. grandiflorum prefers a cool germination temperature so they will not be on the gro-mat. I mistakenly put some parsley seeds on a gro-mat for a week before I reread the germination instructions! In spite of my mistreatment, they came up in a cooler place after I moved them.
April 10. Selecting the Tomatoes
I am growing nine varieties of tomatoes this year. Cherokee Purple and Black Krim performed well for me last year, so I ordered transplants from Seed Saver’s Exchange again. I selected three dwarf varieties from a selection Craig LeHoullier sent me from his Dwarf Tomato Project. I’m excited that he is writing a book about the 10 year global project to create delicious tomatoes that allow people with limited space to grow them! This year I am growing Teensy Chocolate, Pink Paste with Antho*, and an indeterminate that I grew last year and really liked, Chocolate Stripes.
Nikki Jabbour’s Instagram convinced me to try one called Great White Blues. It ripens pale yellow or creamy white with dark shoulders. She describes it as “mild and tomato-y with a hint of sweetness”. I’m in!
I thought I was done until I volunteered at a home show where there was a local seed vendor. I picked up Oregon Spring, an older open-pollinated variety created at Oregon State University that is supposed to set fruit in cool weather. Our cool nights here can make it difficult to set fruit.
And then I went to the Western Landscape Conference down in Pueblo and found Miss Penn’s Mountain Seeds with many– and I mean many– varieties of tomatoes that she grows at 8000+ feet! I selected two: Galina, a yellow indeterminate cherry tomato from Siberia and Zadagka, a small red determinate from Moldova that can be used like a paste tomato. Both are supposed to mature in under 60 days.
*Antho tomatoes have dark shoulders produced by anthocyanins, a group of compounds that give color to various fruits and vegetables. The blue color is produced mostly by the anthocyanin petunidin on the outside of the tomato where the fruit is exposed to direct sunlight.
April 12. Starting Veggies and Flowers
Today I have planted the tomato seeds, Japanese eggplant, jalapeno Jalafuego, and Grenada Seasoning pepper, which is supposed to be mild form of the habanero.
For flowers I’ve planted Echinacea angustifolia and pallida and Delphinium racemosum, which is a native larkspur.
All the seeds are on a gro-mat which keeps the soil at around 70 degrees. I’ll start zinnias soon.
Seed flats in the windowsill on the mat — yes that is snow on the ground. Isaac is not happy that there isn’t room for him to nap on the nice warm gro-mat. And now we wait. Updates to come.