Wrapped up sowing with an ear worm
By John Beaulieu (pronounced Bowl-you)
The winds of November are blowing, and I have just wrapped up the last of my fall (autumn) in-ground sowing. It may be blustery weather, but it is my last chance to get seeds in the ground or plants moved before the ground freezes for winter. I do in-ground sowing of any perennials as late in the season as possible to prevent possible early germination during an unusual warm spell in October or November. It has happened in the past, and of course the young seedlings do not survive the freeze which follows.
Most perennials benefit from being exposed to the cold of winter, and the germination is better than those sowed in the spring. Over the last few years I have been sowing a lot of hardy geraniums and daylilies. All daylily seeds are sown this way, and most of the geraniums were in-ground sown. Only those that I had just a few seeds of, special plants, or those that might not be all that hardy, were held over for mid-winter sowing in pots.
This fall, I have started running out of room for seedlings, so I only sowed my daylilies in a nursery bed. A few collected geranium seeds and my seed scheme picks will be winter-sown later. As any gardener knows there is always lots of last minute cleanup and gathering to be done before things (tools, hose, etc.) get buried by unexpected snow. I’ve been scrambling to get all this done while being bugged by an ear worm. No, it’s not some garden pest, but a term I’ve heard on the radio for that tune that sticks in your head and you can’t seem to shake it.
This is a result of attending a gathering up in Orillia (a small town about a half hour drive from Midhurst) for the birthday celebration of one of our popular local musician’s (who is well-known across North America). Gordon Lightfoot was turning 75! Music and a cake cutting was held at the Mariposa Market (a popular bakery/café) on the Orillia main street. After an afternoon of Gord’s tunes, I can’t get them out of my head!
Anyway, back to the topic of in-ground sowing and nursery beds….
When I started preparing seeding nursery beds a few years ago, I did some work to help conserve moisture. Our ground is fast draining, with less than a foot of topsoil over the golden sand below. I removed the top soil and laid an old rug in the ground to act as a sort of liner to hold moisture and prevent it from draining away right away. Soil was placed back over the rug and a top layer of a potting-type mix was added to sow the seeds in. After sowing and covering with a thin layer of the mix, a mulch of leaves or pine needles are added to prevent strong rain from washing up the seed. This basic method has worked well for me.
Checking the new seedlings in May.
With the hardy geraniums, it is surprising how soon the seedlings can be identified. On the left is a Geranium x oxonianum ‘Kathrine Adele’ and a ‘Dark Reiter’ G. pratense on the right.
The more they growth the easier it is to confirm what they are. Rows are marked by stakes and an overall map plan is made, but some seed does get moved around somehow.
This is my second nursery bed for geraniums. The seedlings are left in each bed for two years to check on the bloom before moving them to permanent spots. I use all sorts of wire cages and fencing to protect the seeds and seedlings from digging by critters (most often skunks) for the first critical months.
These are the 2nd bed seedlings at the end of the first year of growth.
Where the germination was more random, I used little sticks to mark where there were seedlings, making it easier to step through the bed for weeding.
This is that first bed. Plants were all moved elsewhere and it was cleaned up ready for another crop of seedlings. As mentioned this year I did not sow geraniums in-ground. This area has now become part of my expanding rockery and scree, with this spot becoming the home for most of my meadow cranesbills. I’m trying to keep similar plants together in areas, rather than scattered all over the garden.
The winds are picking up…. I’m thinking of Lightfoot’s song about the Great Lakes ship that sunk in November on Lake Superior, The Edmond Fitzgerald….. The lake it is said never gives up her dead when the gales of November blow early…. (here comes that ear worm!)
- 19 Nov, 2013
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