There is doubt that the month of January has been one of the coldest in recent memory. I know. We can gauge it by the size of the crack in the kitchen wall that appears when the foundation heaves. The wider the crack the colder the temperature. Of course I have to shake my head when I look at it.

We tried hard to make walls perfectly plumb and straight. Little did we know the foundation does not extend to the proper depth that would be below the frost line. The only way to fix the problem is to dig the foundation down and pour new walls under the existing ones. It’s a job but I have been involved in just such a project before. Once while working as a mason tender we had to dig up a house, by hand, and replace the foundation walls.

So when we get these warm spells where the temps go above freezing, thoughts turn to getting the seeds together for this spring. Never mind that the weather has turned cold again and snow is falling again. Spring will be here, and soon.

Our seeds are kept in 2 places, the small refrigerator in the studio and a 5 gallon pail that we carry back and fourth to the greenhouse. Some of the seeds we buy are fairly expensive so we store them cool in the small refrigerator, along with various candy and treats we keep handy for the help. The less expensive seeds are packed into a white pail with a tight fitting top.

The seeds are more or less segregated as to herbs, annual flowers, perennial flowers, vegetables and so on. Zip lock bags keep the bundles of seed packets from getting wet from spilled water or condensation.
The trouble is we don’t seem to be able to throw the seeds out when they expire. And they do expire. We found this out the other day when the spinach we planted 2 weeks ago failed to germinate. The seeds looked fine. I swear. The package was sealed and looked like new, but the seeds did not germinate.

After some quick investigation it was determined that the seeds were packaged for 1997. So we now have a new rule. Seeds more than a few years old should be tested to determine if they are any good. A cheep and easy way to do this is take a few seeds, six or so, and fold them into a dampish paper towel. Put the whole thing into a plastic bag so that it does not dry out.

Using the seed packet as a guide, wait for the germination period to expire. It’s ok to peek in the mean time but leave them in there for a few more days than suggested. And keep them somewhat warm, not cooked, but maybe near a source of warm air. If they germinate transplant them into some pots and let them grow.
If the test fails to produce a majority of plants, ditch the pack.

This is really important for seeds that sell off the shelves quickly. It is a real drag to run out of seeds only to find there are no more available. And this year we are paying close attention to the variety of plants we start.

In the past we have spent considerable time and money pursuing seeds and plants that were somewhat fancy and interesting but had no real value unless they were sold. For example if we grow more pepper plants than we can sell we just plant the extras and freeze the surplus but there’s no eating annual flowers and try to pay the bills with marigolds. Perennials can usually be kept over for the next year but the annuals take up a lot of space in the greenhouse so the trial plantings and extraneous plants take up room that could be used for growing food crops.

At any rate I have a feeling that the market for nonessential plants will be nonexistent. This year we are going for plants and crops we enjoy but are some what costly to buy. This includes tomatoes and peppers for eating fresh and to sell or freeze. We will also be including some winter squash like butternut, long island cheese, and maybe pumpkins.

In the mean time here are some Martha Washington geraniums blooms. They all look the same and there is no telling which kind they are until they bloom, and then we can mark them. So far we have 5 different colors but I think there are more.

Why not mark them in the fall? That …. would spoil the surprise!

martha washington geranium

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