getting organized for seed season, with ken druse

IF YOU THINK nothing’s on the to-do listing in winter, fellow gardeners—that we’re all meant to be dormant, just like the cannas within the cellar and the herbaceous perennials outdoors and the flower beds—nicely, assume once more.

Most of us in colder zones, particularly, is probably not actively prepping or planting open air in the meanwhile, after all. However even inside the realm of seed-related actions alone, there’s loads wanting our consideration.

That’s what Ken Druse and I noticed once we acquired to speaking seeds the opposite day on the cellphone. And one factor led to a different, and though it’s not but full-on seed-starting time, we discovered ourselves with a listing of duties—and no, not simply the duty of seed purchasing (although he did seek out seed for Eryngium leavenworthii, above).

Ken Druse is an previous buddy, the creator of 20 gardening books, and my collaborator on our Digital Backyard Membership on-line class sequence. And he’s presently sorting by way of leftover seeds, and in addition a pile of seed catalogs, over at his New Jersey residence. Seedy duties for winter days was the topic of our dialog.

Learn alongside as you take heed to the Jan. 15, 2023 version of my public-radio present and podcast utilizing the participant beneath. You possibly can subscribe to all future editions on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) or Spotify (and browse my archive of podcasts right here).

excited about seeds, with ken druse



Margaret Roach: How’s it going over there, Ken?

Ken Druse: Hello, Margaret. Did you get some snow lastly?

Margaret: Oh my goodness, the very first winter day. I assume we acquired 8 eight or 10 inches.

Ken: Good for you.

Margaret: One thing like that.

Ken: And now it’s 45 levels and every thing’s melting.

Margaret: Yeah, it hasn’t warmed fairly that a lot but, however sure. Sure, it should. After which we’re speculated to have excessive winds and no matter. Yay! I believe there’s a stretch of chilly climate coming for a lot of the Northeast after this week, in order that’ll be attention-grabbing to see. So how are you doing together with your seedy duties?

Ken: I assumed that there was nothing to do-

Margaret: Proper.

Ken: … this time of 12 months.

Juliet small paste tomatoesMargaret: Proper. And it’s not simply seedy duties, both. It’s like with the bizarre climate that we have been simply talking about for a second, which has largely been unseasonably heat until now, I’m sort of anxious about a number of the stuff that’s in storage each in my barn and within the cellar. Are you aware what I imply? The temperatures aren’t proper in these locations. And by “proper,” I imply typical in these locations.

Ken: Nicely, I’m glad that we’ve got some snow as a result of we haven’t had snow for a few years, measurable snow, and I all the time assume snow: good. That’s the blanket, the insulating blanket for the vegetation. They accomplish that a lot better once they have snow. Regardless that it’s melting, I believe we’ll nonetheless have just a few inches on the bottom, in order that’s good. And I assumed, “Nicely, I’m going to develop these fantastic tomatoes that I grew final 12 months.” The ‘Juliet,’ proper, that you simply really useful [above]. And so they have been so profitable. They’re like big grape tomatoes, or very small or tiny plum tomatoes.

Margaret: Sure.

Ken: So I went to the place I assumed the seeds have been from final 12 months as a result of I had loads left over, and I couldn’t discover them.

Margaret: Oops!

Ken: So I appeared one other place, and one other place, and I ended up with—I don’t know—six jars with seed packets, after which all of the seed packets of issues I had harvested from the backyard in a field in one other place. And I took an image [above], which I believe I despatched you, after which I’ve nonetheless discovered extra since then.

So I’ve acquired to get this underneath management. I’ve acquired to label the seeds in the event that they’re not labeled, put the date on and possibly the place they got here from. Positively the date, boy. Particularly on my seeds.

Margaret: Particularly on those you’ve saved your self.

Ken: Yeah, and possibly the date to sow them, proper on the packet, which I can get out of your calculator.

Margaret: Proper. I’ve the on-line seed-starting calculator.

It’s such as you simply need to take a look at the brand new catalogs, and there’s that temptation, however… It jogs my memory of every thing in life. I need to… [Laughter.] “Ooh, take a look at, possibly I’ll get a brand new sweater.” Nicely, you recognize what, Margaret? Take a look at the sweater drawer, and the way’s that trying? ‘Trigger it’s trying a little bit of a multitude.

And I’m simply making up one instance, however it’s pare down, tidy up, manage, make an evaluation of the standing of what’s readily available in all of this stuff in our lives. And then act, proper? To complement or pare down, or once more, much more or no matter; decide. However yeah, I’ve some seeds right here or there and all over the place, too, I believe.

Ken: I’ve two units of garments. Garments that match and garments that I hope sometime will match once more.

Margaret: Oh, I see. Two wardrobes. O.Okay. [Laughter.] So that you’ve been doing that. And once more, with the climate and stuff, I preserve pondering, “Oh, I must verify within the barn.” As a result of I’ve all my Japanese maples on the market and I’ve…

So it’s not simply the place are my seed packets, and what do I want and never must order once more. However it’s additionally simply sort of taking stock of a number of the resting issues. Proper? Like I went-

Ken: Test on dormant issues. That’s proper.

Margaret: Yeah, as a result of I went within the cellar and I’ve loads of tubers and various things, bulbs. I’ve all my cannas down there and so forth, and I assumed, “It’s not as cool because it normally is; it’s simply not.” And I assumed, “Nicely, possibly I’m going to place a bit of little bit of… Perhaps a material excessive of a few of these issues, to maintain a bit of moisture in, so to talk.” And yeah. Have you ever been taking a look at any of that stuff?

Ken: No [laughter], however possibly after we discuss. I preserve the Eucomis, the pineapple lilies, of their pots, and I allow them to go utterly dry once they’re dormant. However up to now I’ve had issues go so dry that both they’ve desiccated utterly, which doesn’t occur fairly often, or they get a sluggish begin; they’re small. Nicely, final 12 months a number of the Eucomis didn’t bloom in any respect, and I believe it’s as a result of they acquired too dry. So I’m simply going to go verify. I don’t need to water them like regular in the summertime in any respect, however it’s only a sprinkle. So the medium is dry, however not desert bone dry.

Margaret: Proper. Proper.

Ken: Which occurs, particularly when the warmth’s on in the home, though they’re in a spot the place there isn’t any supplemental warmth, however it’s nonetheless… Often it’s 40 levels, and this 12 months it’s 50 levels.

Margaret: So it’s time to try this as nicely. Kind of verify that stock as nicely. It’s barely totally different from checking what seeds we’ve got readily available. However nonetheless necessary, as a result of that is our inventory, and people could be costly to interchange, that’s for certain.

Ken: Nicely, we’ve talked about storing… I do know you retailer your Japanese maples, deciduous issues, within the full chilly. And that’s largely so the pots received’t break, I think about. Nicely, partially for that.

Margaret: Proper. It’s an unheated barn. Sure, precisely.

Ken: However I’ve acquired evergreens.

Margaret: And I’ve a pair additionally in there. Sure.

Ken: Oh, yeah? Good. I’ve a banana shrub, which is Magnolia figo, which is a broadleaf evergreen. And it does so nicely, simply takes a bit of nap. After which I convey it out within the spring and it blooms and every thing. It doesn’t even drop the buds. Illicium, have you learnt what Illicium is?

Margaret: Yeah. I don’t know what it’s common-

Ken: Hardy anise. Yeah, anise, the spice comes from Illicium and I’ve Illicium parviforum, and it has yellow leaves which might be enticing and so they additionally odor nice, the leaves do. So these are a few issues that I’m going to verify on.

You might have a fig tree.

Margaret: Proper. I’ve a minimum of one huge fig in there. After which there’s a conifer or two. And people are tough as a result of these will not be awake, however they’ve foliage. So initially, I place these close to a window within the barn, so that there’s some mild. I imply, clearly it’s not a lot mild, however it’s a bit of mild. And people, I fear in the event that they get a cue from I don’t know what temperature, mild, daylength—who is aware of what—to begin to get up a bit of bit. I fear as a result of they’ve all that foliage on that they might actually dry out badly, get harmed.

Ken: And you may’t let the medium in these pots dry out utterly.

Margaret: No, however I can’t water them, both—totally water them. That’s an issue, too.

So anyway, again to seeds, actually, you’ve type of taken inventory of every thing. And are you doing germination assessments, or what do you do subsequent?

Ken: Subsequent I clear up the place I’m going to sow those that I sow indoors, and in addition be conscious of those which might be going to be sown open air. And a few of these can get sown straight away. After which we talked within the final class a bit of bit about winter sowing, and we’re going to speak about that extra.

Margaret: You imply in our Digital Backyard Membership lessons on-line?

Ken: Proper. And I’m performing some seeds within the empty milk jugs. Nicely, they’re empty till I fill them. I’ve one set on the market already…and label them! You understand how you sow one thing and also you assume you’re going to recollect what it was?

Margaret: Yeah, yeah. Positive.

Ken: Label, label, label. I never-

Margaret: It’s so necessary. So that you mentioned you’re type of getting this spot prepared, your indoor seed-sowing gear, you’re getting that every one prepared. And so are you utilizing the identical germinating combine that you simply’ve all the time used, or are you experimenting like so many individuals now with much less peat?

Ken: I’m going to make use of the Johnny’s combine as a result of I’ve some left over from final 12 months, and I’ve stored it closed. And I do know it’s a peat-lite combine, has different issues in it, too. So I’m not going to be experimenting this 12 months. I’ve completed coir. I haven’t tried the one with the paper referred to as PittMoss.

Margaret: PittMoss, proper, a model that’s I believe recycled composted newspaper possibly, or one thing like that. And yeah, there’s every kind of various issues. Natural Mechanics is one other model that has options, coir and different components in it, that aren’t peat. I’ve a small bag every of a few various things, and I’m tinkering.

So if individuals need to attempt, and we all the time warn: Don’t one hundred pc change over for those who don’t know what a mixture goes to be like, as a result of they’ve totally different properties. And the watering, and the way the seeds reply to them could also be totally different. So don’t lose all of your seeds [laughter] by selecting a mixture that doesn’t fit your care routine. So that you’re getting all that prepared and I assume-

Ken: Yeah, so truly I’m truly sowing for the hardy annuals. And-

Margaret: So that you’re winter sowing some stuff.

Ken: Hardy perennials and hardy biennials. Nicely, possibly some tender perennials, too. I imply issues like 4 o’clocks, we deal with them as annuals, however they’re perennials, they’re simply not utterly hardy. So-

Margaret: Not the place we’re. Proper.

Ken: Proper. Making an attempt a few of these. And I do know you can do issues like spinach fairly quickly.

Margaret: Nicely, the very first thing I all the time sow can be onions and their kinfolk, leeks, indoors. And that’s not till February normally right here.

However what I discovered when it comes to once I appeared round and had that epiphany, what you have been speaking about the place you discovered seeds in all places and I discovered my little stashes right here and there. And I sort of appeared on the dates and noticed, “O.Okay., I’ve loads of this, I’ve loads of that, however I’m going to wish this and I’m going to wish that as a result of these are too previous.”

What I discovered is that there have been sure issues that I all the time want would self-sow outdoors. Talking of winter sowing, as a result of the pure model of winter sowing is issues that self-sow very well, like loads of annual poppies do, and Verbena bonariensis does, and I don’t know, larkspur I suppose… I’m pondering off the highest of my head of issues.

My angelica, Angelica gigas [above], does and so forth. However typically they don’t sow the place you need them, or within the density the place you need them, proper? They’ve a thoughts of their very own, after all, from 12 months to 12 months. And also you need to sort of change that up a bit of bit.

And I assumed, “, Margaret, there’s a few these type of areas the place…” I’ve one with the tall verbena, the Verbena bonariensis, and I really need it thickened up. I need extra vegetation on this one space that’s between some pavement cracks and crevices. [Below, V. bonariensis with a spicebush swallowtail butterfly at Margaret’s.]

And I assumed, “Purchase a packet of seats earlier than you overlook.” This was final fall, once I was sort of cleansing up the world, and I used to be pondering, “It’s too sparse right here.”

And identical with Nicotiana. I used to be type of pondering, “O.Okay., I had quite a bit this 12 months, as I’ve had for 20-something years, self-sowns, however I don’t have sufficient of the darkish colours anymore. And I don’t have sufficient of the actually tall ones.” I imply, a few of them might get to be 6 toes—5 actually, and even sometimes 6, however like 5 toes for certain. And I assumed, “ what? It’s time to repopulate this a bit of bit, add a bit of little bit of extra genetics into the combination once more, refresh it.” And once more, heavy it up within the areas the place it’s getting sparse. I need extra of an oomph sort of look. So I purchased some Nicotiana and I purchased some Verbena bonariensis.

When would you sow these? Would you sow these—earlier than a late snow or one thing in late winter or when?

Ken: I’d sow the Nicotiana proper now. And possibly not all of them. Perhaps do some extra… Do them each three weeks or one thing. I imply Nicotiana goes to be wonderful, as you recognize. You have been speaking in regards to the Verbena bonariensis, a plant I can not develop. I get these stunted little vegetation. There’s some sort of… It’s not a illness, it’s some sort of critter that assaults them.

Margaret: Oh, attention-grabbing.

Ken: And ruins the leaves. And I all the time get a few vegetation from final 12 months’s vegetation. However I used to be pondering, have you ever ever tried the brand new quick ones [like ‘Lollipop’]?

Margaret: I’ve seen that. I’ve seen this new selection that’s a scaled-down model, and I’ve by no means. And I assumed, “Nicely, however I really like the way it’s…” Nicely, the widespread identify is tall verbena.

Ken: They’re like wands, with the flowers.

Margaret: The tall one could be hip peak and even taller, and I actually love that. However possibly there’s some use for that, the shorter one. Perhaps I would really like it, or mix the 2. I don’t know. I haven’t tried it. Perhaps I ought to add that to my order.

However like I mentioned, I actually wished, with Nicotiana, I wished a number of the darker ones. There’s ‘Sizzling Chocolate’ and ‘Chocolate Chip.’ There’s one referred to as Evening Flight, ‘Choose Evening Flight.’ Choose Seeds had it, and that’s one that may get to be 5 toes or extra. And it has darkish… These all have darkish flowers. [Above, ‘Select Chocolate Chip’ in photo from Select Seeds.]

And so we’ll see if the experiment works. Proper? If the place I put them they take, and so they convey again the look that I had 10 years in the past once I had extra of that within the inhabitants. As a result of when issues self-sow, they specific totally different traits. It’s not like a hybrid the place it’s the identical factor yearly, the place you purchase a pack of seeds yearly and also you get the very same factor. It’s not like that.

Ken: F1, the tomatoes for the primary cross.

Margaret: Have you ever ordered something or are you looking for something the best way I used to be looking for these two specific issues?

Ken: Nicely, I noticed a few issues. I noticed one factor this 12 months, which I’ve by no means grown from seed. Which is we used to name it periwinkle, and we used to name it vinca. These widespread names are so nugatory, however it’s Catharanthus [below].

Margaret: Catharanthus. Yeah.

Ken: Catharanthus roseus.

Margaret: So certainly one of its widespread names was vinca, however it’s not a vinca vine in the identical manner. Huh. It’s a lookalike sort of?

Ken: Nicely, it’s shrubby. It’s like a-

Margaret: Does the flower seem like a vinca?

Ken: I assume it does, I assume. However I noticed one-

Margaret: What attracted you?

Ken: It’s like the colour of grape jelly, type of. And even blackberries with a bit of white eye and it was… I shouldn’t say it, drop-dead attractive. That’s what it-

Margaret: Do you bear in mind the place you discovered it?

Ken: Yeah, I noticed it at my buddy’s backyard, she had it in a pot and she or he used to work at a nursery. So I assumed, “I’ve acquired to trace this down.” And I did. I tracked it down from seed, so I’m going to attempt that.

And final 12 months I noticed one thing that simply knocked me out, which was Eryngium, you recognize like a thistle. It’s Eryngium leavenworthii [photo, top of page]. And it’s an annual, in order that’s all I used to be excited about. Oh, it’s an annual and it’s magenta and it’s like a bit of thistle and it’s actually stunning. And you then mentioned to me once we have been speaking about it some time again,  “Like Kansas,” and I assumed, “It is a native plant and it’s an annual?” ‘Trigger you by no means take into consideration… Nicely, California poppies, however that’s not that chilly. However you don’t take into consideration a plant from a chilly place that’s an annual. I don’t consider that.

Margaret: Yeah, the Eryngium leavenworthii, the leavenworthii tipped me off that it was most likely from someplace within the center or south of the USA. And certain sufficient, it’s all through Texas and elsewhere type of above that. And it’s nice. Now you mentioned magenta—I consider it as sort of like a surprising purplish virtually. I don’t know. It’s actually vivid no matter it’s.

Ken: Vivid is a good phrase for it. Site visitors-stopping vivid.

Margaret: And I’m wondering if… Will it self-sow? So that you grew it first time final 12 months, did you say?

Ken: Proper, so I saved seed and I additionally purchased seed. Nicely, that’s one other story. So I couldn’t discover the tomato seeds. I couldn’t discover another seeds in packets. So I assumed, “I’ve acquired to get these once more earlier than they’re bought out.” So I ordered ‘Juliet,’ I ordered ‘Solar Gold’ tomato. I ordered just a few extra issues: $30. After which after all, the following day I discovered them.

Margaret: After all you probably did. Sure. It’s sort of like once I discover my glasses ’trigger I used to be on the lookout for them for an hour, however I used to be carrying them [laughter]. It’s not normally an hour, it’s normally 5 minutes. However anyway, you get the thought.

Ken: It doesn’t price $30.

Margaret: No, however it’s fairly humorous. It embarrasses me for a minimum of $30 value of embarrassment. So yeah, the Eryngium are nice. I imply, typically they self-sow to a fault. I really like… I don’t know if anybody’s ever seen, talking of native ones, Eryngium yuccifolium, the rattlesnake grasp.

Ken: Wow. Sure.

Margaret: Massive, tall and silvery, loopy thistly-like heads. And that sharp foliage, that’s widespread to Eryngium additionally. And that’s actually dramatic and fantastic, extra for a meadow-y scenario, sort of a wilder space, I believe, as a result of once more, it’s going to self-sow.

However yeah, I’m stalking seed of tassel flower, Emilia coccinea [above, photo from Select Seeds].

Ken: Oh, that’s fairly. And that’s self-sows typically, too.

Margaret: I didn’t have any self-sow, however I grew it in a giant container once I grew it a few years in the past. After which after all, these are issues that you simply’re not going to seek out on the backyard middle, and that’s why we’re mentioning be looking out for seed. As a result of for those who simply need common marigolds of a standard selection, and there’s loads of nice ones, or orange zinnias or yellow zinnias, you’re going to have the ability to discover these. So for those who don’t get them otherwise you don’t have room to begin them, O.Okay., you might have a backup on the backyard middle.

However with a few of these belongings you don’t. Just like the annual vines. Lots of instances they only don’t have the choice that I need and the type of extra uncommon ones. However the Emilia, the 12 months I grew that… It has these little, prefer it says, tassel flowers, like fire-engine orange-y crimson. There’s a few totally different varieties and so forth, totally different shades. However this one pot of them, I imply the pearl crescent butterflies have been masking it the entire summer time in the course of the bloom time. It was superb. And I see that Choose Seeds firm has it. So I’m going to positively get a packet of that.

Have you ever ever grown calendula? As a result of I miss mine; I used to all the time have calendula self-sowing in my vegetable backyard for a few years. And it’s an edible flower as nicely, apart from being sort of insect pleasant and so forth.

Ken: Typically they name it pot marigold.

Margaret: Sure, precisely.

Ken: You possibly can add it to soups. And there’s some actually cool, wild ones in sundown colours now, too. Used to only be… They appeared like marigolds, however now there’s some extra attention-grabbing ones. Sure. Years in the past I grew them and I believe I sowed them open air ’trigger they’re cold-tolerant. They’re hardy annuals, I assume.

Solar Flashback calendula Wild Garden SeedMargaret: Sure. And they also’re simple. And the nice factor is you are able to do a succession. So you are able to do them actually early and have type of spring into early summer time. And you then may a second succession of peas, such as you’re going to do fall peas, you can do fall calendula. You can sow extra calendulas and have a second crop. You can do this with loads of annuals. However they’re actually good for that as a result of they like that cooler season, once more. There’s one, once more I believe it’s from Choose Seeds, it’s referred to as ‘Radio,’ and it’s like a cactus-shaped flower. It seems like a cactus flower. What would you say, dahlias are available cactus flowers and a few zinnias, I believe, that cactus-shaped flower.

And it’s brilliant orange and it’s simply so distinctive. And I assumed, “Oh wow.” There’s loads of bicolored ones with type, the backs of the petals are a special shade. It’s the Flashback Sequence from Frank Morton at Wild Backyard Seeds. And also you’ll see these in different catalogs as nicely. I imply, there’s loads of actually dramatic ones. [Above, his ‘Solar Flashback.’]

So within the final couple of minutes, what about… What different issues, the rest that you simply’re… I used to be taking a look at Nigella the opposite day. I haven’t grown that in one million years.

Ken: I had Nigella and it was so weedy and there have been so many.

Margaret: It was?

Ken: 12 months after 12 months, however after about most likely 10 years gone, by no means noticed them once more.

Margaret: And that’s what occurred right here, too. I had it for a very long time after which by no means once more. I used to be pondering of nasturtiums, too, as a result of you may simply sort of direct-sow them after the large frost hazard’s previous, and you can begin them a few weeks forward of time. However there’s sort of trailing ones, the longer trailing ones, what’s it, Tropaeolum majus, I believe is the species. However then there’s the Tropaeolum minus which might be extra mounding, which might be sort of extra petite.

Ken: I don’t know.

Margaret: And so they’re nice. Like edgers and…

Ken: Edible, too.

Margaret: Edible, too. For the perimeters of pots, and the colours now are astonishing. So anyway, you can simply get… So that you need to inform us the rest? You’re nonetheless in your to-do listing over there.

Ken: I’m excited about what we’ve been speaking about this time of 12 months and a few seed… Nicely, learn the packets, as a result of some seeds… They name it stratification. They want the chilly.

Margaret: To germinate, proper.

Ken: To germinate. So be certain you learn that as a result of possibly it’s the time of 12 months to sow some seeds and it’ll let you know that on the again of the packet most likely.

Margaret: Or to pre-chill them by placing them in a no matter it says. Put them in a plastic bag within the fridge. I imply, it’ll let you know a number of the methods you are able to do it.

Ken: It’s normally not freeze, however usually refrigerate.

Margaret:. Precisely. All proper, so learn our packets. I believe Choose Seeds and I believe Johnny’s, too, each have actually good rising data. Each of these have actually good directions and inform these particulars like that.

desire the podcast model of the present?

MY WEEKLY public-radio present, rated a “top-5 backyard podcast” by “The Guardian” newspaper within the UK, started its 14th 12 months in March 2023. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the smallest NPR station within the nation. Pay attention domestically within the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Japanese, rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. Or play the Jan. 15, 2023 present utilizing the participant close to the highest of this transcript. You possibly can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Spotify (and browse my archive of podcasts right here).

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