Early spring is a great time to get a jump-start on the edibles in your garden. Whether you live on a sprawling estate or in a high-rise condo, there is opportunity to grow veggies and herbs you can use in a fresh garden salad or your favorite cocktail. In early spring many cool-climate gardeners find themselves at an in-between stage, but there are some garden tasks you can complete that will ensure you are ready for planting with the time arrives.
Our how-to for using milk and water jugs to create your own planters to sow seeds in the snow. Yes, you can start sowing seeds now, even if you're snowed in, and be rewarded with hardy vegetables and flowers in the summer.
Here at the GARDEN DESIGN office, the seed catalogs have started coming in the mail. This is a spread of gorgeous purple tomatoes from the 2011 Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog (www.rareseeds.com). Though our town will be covered in four inches of snow tonight, it's fun to plan out our plantings for the spring and summer. Have you thought about what you're going to plant this year? What seed and plant catalogs are your go-tos?
Can you recommend some good sources for buying seeds and offer some tips for starting plants from seed?
—Julia Tomer, Pittsburgh
Q: Last spring I had lots of luck starting seed of coleus, impatiens, zinnias, marigolds, and vinca with just one fluorescent light. I want to add more this year, and I'd like to know which lights are best. — Kristin Fahey, Akron, Ohio
In the early 20th century, Russian botanist and geneticist Nikolai Vavilov cultivated a preserve that would become one of the world's largest repositories of rare seeds and crops. The collection represented a vast botanic diversity—Vavilov spent two decades traveling five continents gathering seeds.
Most plants try to disperse their seeds far and wide. That way, if a flood or fire kills the parent plant, at least the progeny will be spared. Moreover, any plant can be a competitor for nutrients, so the further flung the children, the better. Geocarpic plants are exceptions to this rule. These rare angiosperms prefer to keep their young close to home—actually, they don't even leave the nest before settling into the ground. By depositing their seeds in the ground, geocarpic plants are their own so-called seed sowers.
Tassels, silk, and glass gems—objet de luxe or, well, grain? If you're thinking of a certain husk-swaddled treasure, you are correct: Corn in general, and a rare heirloom variety in particular. Tassels and silk, with their pollen and ovules, are the so-called trimmings that produce an ear of corn. And glass gem is the name of a beautiful variety with a palette of improbable colors: lilac, merlot, robin's egg blue, pearl, baby pink.