Siberianelm2

A few weeks ago, some of the earliest green could be seen appearing on trees in our neighborhood. It’s always exciting to see those first tree leaves coming along isn’t it?

Well….the fairly invasive Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) – pretty much the best example of a “trash tree” in our area –  likes to play a little trick on us. The tiny bits of green we see covering them are actually their ripening seeds. (more…)

“Freckles” is an heirloom lettuce that performs well in the Pikes Peak region.

“Heirloom seeds are better, right?” It’s a question I hear a lot when I’m teaching classes on growing your own veggies. Just the term “heirloom” makes us think of precious family treasures, fine antiques. “Heirloom seeds” is a phrase that sells and many seed companies take full advantage of it.

Heirloom vegetables (or flowers) are varieties that have been in cultivation a long time—decades, if not centuries—and are still being grown today. They’re what your great grandmother would have sown in her garden. They’re the antiques of the gardening world.

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Q: I have leftover seeds from last year and prior years; should I throw them out? I wonder if any of them are viable and will germinate and grow?

A: If you have some seed left from past gardening seasons, you may not have to buy new this year. Reflect upon the storage conditions, inspect the seed, and run a germination test to check the seed viability. You may end up having extra money in your gardening budget to buy additional seeds.

Seeds, according to their habits in the wild and moisture content, have differing life spans. Some, especially fleshy seeds, die very quickly so need to be sown as soon as they ripen; others, particularly seeds, such as those of beans or tomatoes, can be kept for up to ten years.

Most seeds stored in a cool [below 39 degrees], dry place will still be viable for five years or more. Even after that you can plant the old seeds successfully by simply sowing a bit more thickly. Plump, healthy seeds produce the most vigorous new plants. (more…)

seedling.pngQ: How hard is it to start seeds indoors? I’d like to try it but I heard it could get expensive.

A: There are a variety of ways to start seeds indoors, including fluorescent grow lights, special plant stands, and seed starting kits. But, being a frugal gardener, I’ve found cheaper methods of starting seeds indoors with good results.

Most gardeners will tell you there is a certain thrill of getting a jump on spring especially in a winter as long as this one. And watching tiny specks of seeds sprout is still a miracle to me. (more…)

seedpacketfront.jpgQ: I want to plant vegetables from seed this year to save money, but I find the information on seed packets confusing. What information do I need to know to be successful?

A: Growing a garden from seed can be confusing when you are just starting out, but there are benefits. Growing plants from seed is rewarding and cost effective. A packet of seeds can produce 20 or more plants for the cost of one potted plant. You have a wider variety to choose from, including unique and heirloom varieties, and the seed will be available when you are ready to plant.

Seed packets are the instruction manuals for the plant. From them you can learn information about when and how to sow the seeds, days to germination, growth habits, sun and soil requirements and a description of the plant. Prior to use, seed packets should be stored in a cool, dry spot away from direct sunlight. (more…)