Feb 18: tulips emerging! Viola seeds sprouting!

I happened to check my viola seeds yesterday, and they sprouted! After a week in the fridge, and then a week out of the fridge but still in darkness, I opened the egg carton lid and saw these little yellow sprouts, trying to find some light:

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My first sprouts! 🌱#violas

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We hadn’t set up a light for them yet, so my husband hung the shoplight while I figured out the timer, and after one day under lights, our little sprouts are greening up. They’re the only seedlings under the light right now — the bluestem and purple vervain seeds are still in the refrigerator — but soon they’ll have company.

violas under shop light.jpg
Violas under shop light

We had a run of above freezing temperatures last week (highs in the 50s and 60s, lows ranging from 29 to 55), and today is bright and warm. There may be some new grass growing — I see green out there where there was only brown last week. I strolled the garden, comfortable in a long sleeved shirt and vest, and saw that tulips are pushing up down by the mailbox:

And the tulips my husband gave me for Valentine’s day will start blooming any minute:

Spring is finally in sight!

February 2: started Bluestem and Viola seeds

I’m finally able to start gardening! I took a flex day on midwinter day (also known as Imbolc, Candlemas, and most familiarly, Groundhog day), and since the kids also had a snow day, my daughter and I drove to Lowes and Home Depot to pick up seed trays, seedling-starting soil, and a shop light for when the seedlings emerge and need light. I bought a large rectangular Gladware container that will eventually be good for storing cupcakes, but for now I am using it to hold the seed pots so I can refrigerate them. I also ordered more seeds 😬.

After making some midwinter cutout cookies with the kids, I started the first round of seeds, which need to be started indoors 10-12 weeks before our average last frost date (April 29 in our area).

Little Bluestem grass

  • Poured dry soil into the Gladware container, then wet it using the sink sprayer. Stirred it until the soil was evenly damp, then spooned the moist soil into plantable pots.
  • Sowed 4 seeds in each of 12 plantable pots that came with our seed starter tray: dropped 1 seed in each corner of each pot, then poked them in with a cake pop stick.
poking bluestem seeds into soil
Poking Little Bluestem seeds into damp soil with a cake pop stick
  • Pressed soil down to make sure seeds were not in air pockets and were in contact with damp soil
  • Squirted the top of each pot  with a spray bottle
  • Placed in large rectangular plastic container and snapped all but one corner of the lid to keep moisture in but not make it air-tight.
  • Put container in fridge.
  • Need to stay in fridge 3-6 weeks, and must remain moist.

Violas (Johnny Jump-up) Inside

  • Used the damp soil mixture from above and a six-pack recycled paper board egg carton (hopefully plantable) to plant seeds.
  • I used the egg carton, with the carton lid, to provide the seeds with darkness, which they need to germinate.
  • Viola seeds were tiny. I scattered them over damp soil in the egg carton, probably 5-7 seeds per pot.
  • Tamped soil, sprayed with water to make sure soil was wet through with no air pockets around the seeds, then closed the carton lid and placed them in the plastic container with the Bluestem seeds.

Violas (Johnny Jump-up) Outside

  • We’ve got snow and rain due tomorrow, and since these are early spring bloomers that need cold before sprouting, I figured I’d go ahead and scatter the rest of the seeds outside where I want them to grow (under the tree at the top of the back hill) and see if they emerge in spring.
  • The ground is not frozen, at least at the surface, and I loosened the top 1/2 inch of soil in about seven 8″ patches.
  • I sprinkled 5-7 seeds in each disk, then covered them with soil and tamped it down. The soil was moist.
  • I did not water the seeds in. It’s supposed to snow, then rain, then freeze tomorrow, so we’ll see if this works.
  • Seedlings are supposed to emerge in 12-25 days at 65℉, then bloom 90-100 days later.
viola seed packet
Viola planting instructions

Dreaming of seeds, but — cats.

The seed catalogs arrived! As soon as we brought them in from the mail box, I started poring over them. Our intention is to plant a flower garden out front, but the catalogs begin with tomatoes.

Bright red, juicy tomatoes whose slices drip with the warmth and sunshine of summer. I can’t imagine one of those fist-sized Burger Boys in the afternoon, when the fruit is warm, slicing it into slabs on the sunny porch, sprinkling it with salt, and eating it with a fork. My God.

We don’t have space for a vegetable garden. Well, I should say we don’t have usable space for a vegetable garden. Our yard is large, but consists pretty much of a giant steep hill that’s treacherous to even walk up, much less plant a garden on. Everything would wash away. So, no tomatoes this year. Sadly.

And then I got to the flower and herbs section of the catalog. Emerald sweet basil, spring green lemon balm, silvery lavendar. Happy yellow sunflowers, powder blue hydrangea, purple bee balm. They made me want to buy grow lights and start planting right away.

Which brings me to my dilemma. I’d love to start plants from seed indoors, but I’m not sure how to accomplish it without an extravagent setup: stringing grow lights from the ceiling, scrounging up a large table for flats, and most importantly, finding a place to put the seedlings where the cats won’t destroy them.

I can imagine spending $200-$300 on lights, pots, seeds, and soil, only to come downstairs one morning to a seedling massacre on the floor of the basement. I would spend weeks waiting for sprouts to emerge, then as soon as the green finally arrives, I’d go to bed one night and wake to find pots and dirt and mutliated baby plants scattered on the basement floor, while a cat looks at me with big, “What?” eyes and then licks her paw.

So my guess is that I won’t be planting seeds ahead of time. It would likely be more cost effective, and I’m antsy to get started on the garden, but I’m just not sure how to make it work.