Documents: Special Interest: Seeds, Bulbs & Such:

February Romance
by Mark Cullen
by Mark Cullen


Canada's best known gardening personality, Mark Cullen believes that Canadians of all ages need to play more - preferably in the dirt. A best-selling author with over 400,000 books in print, Mark reaches over one million Canadians every week through various media outlets. He is the host of his own gardening show on CFRB radio, a Home Hardware spokesperson and regularly contributes to various magazines, gardening shows and newsletters. With a familiar style that people can relate to, he delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative and inspirational - all based on his organic approach to gardening. In his spare time Mark enjoys driving his Ford Model A - and of course he loves to garden.

February 21, 2016

Now, down to the dirt! Finally, the time has arrived. I always think of January as the month to dream and February as the month to get sowing.

Did your seeds arrive safely? Mine did. Did you forget to order? Well, all is not lost. The seed racks at all the garden centres are now simply bursting at the seams with a terrific selection from this year’s collection. You will find names such as Morgan & Thompson, Mr. Fothergills, Seeds of Change, Plants of Distinction, Veseys and many others, providing a wide range of seed choices – annuals, perennials, vegetables and herbs. Also, don’t forget to review the seed you collected from your garden last year and stored in the refrigerator.

Always check the date on the package before you buy. The sell-by date is equally important for seeds as the items you purchase from your grocery store, and guarantees freshness and successful germination.

When you set off to purchase seed it is good to have a rough idea of what you want to grow in order to ascertain what flowering and fruiting times you are aiming to achieve. Different plants and vegetables have different maturity requirements and this is where the top seed companies excel by providing all relevant information on the seed packet. Tremendous advances have been made over the past few years with regard to not only the actual quality of the seed, but also the quality of the information worn on its overcoat.

As you explore the racks you almost feel transported into another environment where scrumptious and colourful, fruits, flowers and vegetables reside, showing results that you can also achieve. On the reverse side of each package you will find complete growing advice, including the number of days you can expect to maturity and whether to plant in sun or shade.

Other important details might include whether to cover the seed (Delphiniums) or not (Impatiens); whether to soak (Sweet Peas), scarify (roughen or nick the seed coat [Lupines]), stratify (subject the seed to an initial period of cold treatment [Hellebores ]) and what not to transplant (Cucumbers).

After making your seed choice, and I promise if you are like me, you will be hard pressed to limit your selection, you will next embark on growing equipment. This can be as simple or sophisticated as you wish. Plastic-domed mini greenhouses with cell pack inserts are readily available. Indoor lighting systems, heating coils and self-watering equipment, plus more, lay in wait for the temptation of the experienced enthusiast.

To get started, any shallow plastic tray with holes for drainage is perfectly adequate. You will also need a soilless mix in which to sow your seeds. However, I highly recommend that you purchase a bottle of ‘No-Damp’. This you will dilute with water when you first water your seeds. This will prevent the young seedlings from keeling over and dieing, which can happen due to lack of air circulation and over-zealous watering.

Fill your container with dampened seed medium, adding ‘No Damp’ to the water. Gently damp level. Carefully sow the seed on the surface and, unless these seeds require light to germinate, cover with a very fine layer of soil. Water from beneath until the soil is moist. Cover with glass or plastic to provide a greenhouse environment and place in a location where they will receive bottom heat, such as the top of the refrigerator.

Next comes the most exciting part of all - checking for seed germination! Once germination occurs remove the cover and transfer to a cooler location where they will receive between 12-14 of light every day. Once the first set of true leaves appear you can transplant into individual containers, and then once night-free frosts have safely passed, transfer outside.


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