Plant Factory Update

The little seed-starting operation I set up in January has been a success. I’ve grown hundreds of flower and vegetable plants from seed and counting. The exact number or even a good estimate is unknown — I’ll keep better records next year.

At least a few plants came up of everything I planted. Varieties include black-eyed Susan, Canterbury bells, foxglove, delphinium, calendula (pot marigold), sweet allysum, petunias, marigolds (2 varieties), zinnias (2 varieties), tithonia (Mexican sunflower), love-lies-bleeding, bell peppers, heirloom tomatoes, and a ton of lettuce (3 varieties).

‘Dragon Wing’ begonias were the exception. The microscopic seed are slow to germinate. Algae covered the seed-starting mix before they had time to sprout. I’ve had the same issue with petunias. A Google search revealed that excessive moisture from keeping the clear plastic dome on all the time causes the algae bloom. Removing it for an hour or two every day solves the problem.

It worked. Nearly all the petunias came up this time. Half of nearly fifty plants are white; the other half are pink. I have no idea which are which because the ink washed off the labels. Quite a few were extremely small when I planted them in the garden.

A better option would have been to move them into larger containers until they were bigger, but I ran out of space. I’ve lost track of where I put the smallest, slowest-growing seedlings and may have pulled a few thinking they were weeds. Oops. On the plus side, tiny seedlings seem to experience less transplant shock.

As for the garden, cool season veggies are gone (other than lettuce which I’m harvesting now). I pulled the beets before they were ready because I wanted the space more than I wanted home-grown beets. Spinach and broccoli did great, but the Brussels spouts and turnips went to seed before getting big enough to harvest. The English peas grew well early on and even started to bloom before cold weather took them out.

Cool season annuals planted last fall survived the winter free of damage. We’re not talking about a few plants. Go big or go home. Mass plantings of snapdragons and dianthus are simply stunning. Pansies and violas have also done well.

Despite my seed-starting success, I’m browsing garden centers all over Athens for more plants. Most of what’s blooming now will burn up in the heat. Nearly invisible seedlings make it hard to know how much space is still available. I need to figure it out. The window for planting is rapidly drawing to a close.