Garden 2022: The Nursery

on Jan 27, 2022 by Michael Rupured

Since downsizing in 2012, I’ve chosen to fill my garden with annuals. They’re colorful, fast-growing, widely available, and easy to grow. Changing things up every year also appeals to me. Browsing garden centers is a related hobby. Impulse purchases are common.

Last winter, I bought a timer, LED light and cold frame to grow plants from seed. Despite a late start, home-grown plants filled most of the garden all summer and fall. I learned a lot in the process and am growing even more from seed this year — so much I fear there won’t be room for any impulse purchases.

Browsing seed catalogs is almost as fun as hitting garden centers. Catalogs offer pages and pages of different varieties of the same thing (i.e. marigolds or zinnias or tomatoes). Garden centers only offer a few varieties, but often have new and unusual types not found in catalogs. I placed orders with two places (Park and Burpee) in November and received the seed within a few days.

Last year, I ran out of space under lights and in the cold frame. I decided a four-foot shop light would make a difference and was happy to find LED options. Some seed require bottom heat and/or warm soil to germinate, so I added a domed flat with a heat mat. I could have just bought a heat mat, but the “hot house” included an extra tall, vented dome I haven’t seen elsewhere.

The “Nursery”

My plant nursery is contained on a four-foot wide stand with wheels and five shelves. If need be, the stand can accommodate 6 to 8 flats. Tender plants will graduate to a table that gets morning sun. Hardier varieties can go in the cold frame. Before space becomes an issue, I should be able to plant stuff directly in the garden.

Flats are generally the same size with the number of cells ranging from 24 to 72. The smaller (72 cells/flat) are great for starting seed, but seedlings quickly need to be moved to larger cells. Last year, seed-starting supplies were in short supply. I had a few 32 cell flats, numerous 72 cell flats and 36 3-inch pots. The pot shortage forced me to plant things out earlier than desired with decidedly mixed results. This year, I’m better prepared in terms of both quantity and sizes.

Rudbeckia ‘Indian Summer’ (a fancier Black-eyed Susan with extra-long petals), two varieties of Wave petunias, three kinds of lettuce, and — just for the hell of it — stock (Matthiola incana) have already come up and been moved into bigger cells or pots. Red hibiscus (the giant-flowering type), bell peppers, and a second planting of ‘Indian Summer’ were started this week in the hot house but haven’t come up yet.

In addition to growing plants from seed, I took cuttings last fall of four varieties of coleus and some rose-blooming impatiens to root and overwinter. I put the cuttings in plastic cups of water in a sunny window back in September. They rooted right away, but all the impatiens and most of the coleus died in the days before January 11 when I finally I got around to potting them.

By my calculations (aka wishful thinking), Athens is 12 weeks from the “safe” planting date. Groundhog Day is Wednesday. The current forecast is calling for clouds and rain. If I don’t see my shadow, spring is just around the corner. It’s science, right?

See you next time!