Project Grow

Project Grow

Friday, March 28, 2014

Surveying the Damage

This has been a rough winter and enough snow has melted that took a look and some pictures. All the perennials  spent the winter under more than a foot of snow and they all look fine, though it is hard to tell this early.

The first picture is of Helleborus orientalis.  They look pretty beat up but they should show new leaves and flowers about the time tulips are blooming.  These are just the leaves that overwintered.  When it gets nicer outside I will cut them all off.

Here is a picture of some snowdrops.  They were not only under the snow but also under the ground so they're fine.  Behind the snowdrops you can see rabbit poop which is everywhere in my back yard.  I haven't discovered whatever they were eating yet but they seem to have been well fed.

Here is a picture of an oriental poppy on the left with two clumps of daffodils coming up to the right.  These look the way they always do in the spring, just a bit later than usual.

Now the stuff that doesn't look so great.

Here is a Blue Girl holly.  The green part, on the bottom, was protected by the snow.  The whole thing usually looks like that this time of year. I don't know yet if the top part is dead or just if just the leaves died..

This is a picture of a yew which now has no needles.  Behind it is an arborvitae which also looks dead. Both of these plants were added to provide some green over the winter.  Not any more.

This is a China Girl holly that looks like it has had it.  I was thinking of taking it out anyway since I didn't like how it looked, so no great loss.

This is an Ilex opaca or American holly.  It looks like it will survive but will lose all the leaves over the snow line.  

Thankfully, not all my evergreen shrubs croaked.  Boxwood has the reputation of being a bit miffy but these look great.  I think they are Green Velvet but I'm not sure.  I always bought the ones that were supposed to be hardy to zone 4 and this winter shows the wisdom of that.

Here is another Ilex opaca.  This one is a female, the half dead one is a boy.  This looks like it made it through the winter OK.

Lastly, here is a rhododendron on the east side of the house.  Except for this one in this spot, I have never had any luck growing these things, but I think this one looks great.  

If it is not obvious from their size, all of these shrubs have been in place 10 years or more, so the dieback is from the extreme winter, not from being freshly planted.

Plant Sale Seedlings

Don't worry if you have not started any peppers, tomatoes or basil because Project Grow's plant sale team has been doing it for you.  You can read all about the sale here.

Here are more pictures of our efforts.
Tomato seedlings started March 15th

Pepper seedlings started February 26th.

Basil seedlings with a few peppers in the front right.  All started February 26th.

Signs of Spring

Spring is coming, it is just taking its time.  Here are some crocus coming up in my lawn just as the snow recedes.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Plants for the Project Grow Plant Sale

The Project Grow plant sale volunteers have been busy starting this year's plants and we now have some pictures.

The first is of tomato seedlings that were planted two weeks ago.  The seedlings in each small pot will be pricked out first to 4 packs and then later to 3" pots for sale.  We started about 12 flats of tomatoes using 18 3" pots per flat.  Each pot should have 18 usable seedlings in it.  That is a whole lot of baby tomatoes!
Two week old tomatoes

The next picture is of Genovese basil seedlings which were started 3 weeks ago.  All the basil plants were transplanted to 4 packs yesterday.
Three week old basil

Finally we have pepper plants.  These were also started 3 weeks ago and we have transplanted about half of them to 4 packs.  In the background you can see primroses and delphiniums I started for myself.
Three week old peppers

We start all this stuff under fluorescent lights.  Indoor lights are the easiest way to get seedlings started but we try to move them to a tiny heated greenhouse as soon as we can to get them accustomed to cooler temperatures and outdoor sunlight right away.  This also prevents them from getting too leggy which can be a real problem with tomatoes started early under lights.

You can read about the 65 varieties of tomatoes, 20 different peppers and 5 kinds of basil Project Grow is growing for the sale here.  If you can make the sale you can also advance order plants and pick them up a week before the sale.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Perennial Flowers from Seed

One of the advantages of growing perennials from seed is you get a lot more bang for the buck.  Even small starter perennials you get at Colemans's, Alexander's or the Farmer's Market will cost $1.50-$3 per plant.  Large perennials cost $5 to $15.  The big ones make sense if you need instant results - like you're trying to sell your house - but growing plants from seed allow you to be much more extravagant in how many plants you use.

Another advantage is the selection.  GeoSeed offered 8 different kinds of Primula acaulis this year, and that is besides the other 21 varieties they are offering of other species.   I chose Danova and paid $5.35 for a packet of 100 seeds.  They came up like radishes and I ended up having to thin them out.  Even after doing that I had 28 primrose plants for $5.35.  Of course, I am  not exactly sure where I will plant 28 primroses, but it is a nice problem to have and they only need to be about 8 inches apart so I will come up with something.

Danova seedlings sown on January 30th
Danova primroses
There are disadvantages to growing perennials from seed.  With many perennials you want a clone of a specific plant, not a seed grown strain.  For example, bearded iris, peonies and daylilies are almost always sold as clones of named varieties.  These plants will be exactly identical - your 'Festiva Maxima' peony will look exactly like every other 'Festiva Maxima' in the entire world.

Peonies, iris and most daylilies are only available as clones, but many other perennials such as dahlias, hardy asters, echinacea, hellebores, and hardy geraniums are available as both seed strains and particular clones. Whether or not this matters depends how similar the seed strains are to the named clones and how fussy you are about obtaining a particular plant.

Some plants are also not really worth germinating from seed.  For example, I love bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) but they are available everywhere for very little money.  The seed is difficult to germinate without stratifying it outside for months and they self sow quite readily outside so you soon have more than you need.

Lisianthus at Two Months

Here is a picture of how the lisianthus look two months after they were sown.  Much bigger than the head of a pin but compared to the speed many other things grow they are creeping along.  The biggest ones are about the diameter of a quarter, maybe a bit larger.

Fairly soon I will transplant them into small liners (72 cells per flat) and eventually they will go into larger liners (36 cells per flat).