Sowing seeds when there's still snow on the ground may sound like folly, but according to Tom Stearns, founder of High Mowing Organic Seeds in Wolcott, Vermont, you can do just that with certain plants. Poppies, in fact, benefit from the practice. Stearns, whose company is one of the major sellers of organic seeds in the country, points out that the poppy—native to many parts of the world—actually needs cold and moisture in order to germinate. In a process known as stratification, the poppy's hard outer seed coat softens when exposed to extended periods of below-freezing temperatures. Then, when the weather gets warmer and the seed receives moisture from the melting snow, the germinating plant can penetrate the softened outer shell. Late winter is the time to sow poppies: just scatter the seeds right onto the snow in the area of your garden where you want the poppies to grow. In a typical season, you'll have a crop of beautiful flowers by June. No snow? Try storing the seeds in the refrigerator for one to three months in a lightly moistened paper towel sealed in a plastic bag, then plant them in the garden after the last frost.
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