Starting Seeds

Thursday, February 05, 2009

I started my first seeds last weekend -- leeks, lobelia, and something new I want to try this year, artichokes. Lobelia 'Crystal Palace' is always the first of the flower seeds I put under the grow lights. I plant some every year for its stunning deep blue flowers. The blossoms are tiny but when the plants are grouped en masse, they practically glow in summer's dusk. They're just beautiful, and they are super-low maintenance once established.

The artichokes fall into the "wouldn't it be nice if I could grow some of those" category, but I'm not holding my breath. I've never seen artichokes offered at the farmers' markets around here, and that's a sign that I'm probably pushing my luck. Artichokes are a perennial plant and it might not be until next year until I see a choke, if I even get that far with them. We'll see. This is definitely an experiment.

Here's a picture of my seed stash. Last year I had just one bucketful of seeds; I've since added a stuffed-to-the-brim shoebox. This past weekend I had the best intention of going through all those seeds and throwing away the oldest ones that I'll probably never plant. Like the cucumbers. Somewhere along the way I accumulated a lot of cucumber seeds. I have some packets in there dating back to 2004 and 2005 -- some of them unopened. My eyes were bigger than my garden plot back then, clearly.

I ended up composting only about 10 packets of seeds, mostly the unwanted cucurbits. I really have trouble getting rid of the excess. I always think, maybe THIS will be the year I'll plant those extra beans from 2006, or maybe THIS will be the year I'll plant that free packet of flower seeds I got in 2007 when I didn't have the space for them.

But if past behavior is any indication of the future...

What can I say? My seed stash looks pretty much the same after my half-hearted vetting process. And I just received 7 new packets of seeds -- my mail order from Seed Savers Exchange. I'm popping the lid off another shoebox.


Blogger Sunita Mohan said...

Looks like we share the same excess-seeditis. At least you've got your seed packets neatly confined within a shoe-box. Mine are all over 2 houses! :(
You actually composted some of them?! Wow! I dont think I would have the nerve to do that.

8:21 AM  
Blogger tina said...

I'm like you and Sunita with seeds. And I just can't figure out where they all come from!

8:33 AM  
Blogger Chiot's Run said...

I know it's so hard to get rid of them, kind of like throwing away a promise.

You should perhaps see if you can give them to someone, get someone started in gardening

9:45 AM  
Blogger Sylvia (England) said...

Cardoons make a fantastic foliage plants. Plant them into the flower garden and even if you don't get any artichokes you can enjoy them. Mind have are 'evergrey' in the UK but I don't know how hardy they are. If the leaves break I just cut them off and more grow.

Best wishes Sylvia (England)

10:00 AM  
Blogger O.I.M said...

planting seeds already....I'm so excited for you. good luck with the artichoke. I love a good experiment.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Matron said...

Glad to see someone else has biscuit tins full of seed packets too! I don't believe in all this alphabetizing and size ordering of seed packets (too anal!) give me a scruffy biscuit tin packed full any day!

2:40 PM  
Blogger Nate said...

I'm experimenting with my entire garden this year - this is my first year of really trying with it. Artichokes are on my list, and here is a link to my post on how I am trying it.
I live in Utah, so we have to grow them as annuals, and there is some manipulation involved. They are now started in the basement and will be moved to a cold frame in about 6 weeks.

8:26 PM  
Blogger seedman said...

You can find detailed seed saving instructions for 18 vegetables and 24 flowers on the website of this 20 year-old non-profit:

10:19 PM  
Blogger Gardenista said...

You just can't have enough seeds! Thanks for the reminder to start Lobelia. I plan to put it in my hanging baskets and such. Good luck with your seedlings!

7:57 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

It is an addiction that is tough to kick on one I completely understand. But, isn't it just so much fun to keep collecting? I have been able to convince myself to toss the remainders of things that did not grow well for me--at least I've come that far.

8:22 PM  
Blogger said...

Hi Christa;

I notice you mention starting leeks. One time long ago I was supervising a youth garden and a call came in that there were 15,000 leeks at the airport that someone had refused. Word was all around about what we were doing and we seemed the likely recipient I guess. The kids planted those leeks and we made a bunch of money to keep the program going. That was in the early 80's and though the program has evolved, it's still going today.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My artichoke flowered the first year. They prefer cool foggy weather--the summer heat kills them. I got 3 delicious artichokes before the plant died in the heat.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Matron said...

Globe artichokes are a brilliant foliage plant if you have the room to grow them on the veggie patch. The blue flowers encourage lots of bees. I find that they really get covered in blackfly and most of the time that prevents them from being really edible.

5:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am exactly the same...i think it's important to have a choice though, makes you think more carefully about what you are planting, rather than just referring back to old favourites. Parsnip seed however is a disaster if even one year old!

5:47 PM  
Blogger Graham WIlson said...

This is the first year (I think!) that I am going to be organized enough to start seeds indoors. What things should I start indoors now rather than plant outside next month? Thanks!

2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I started some artichokes from seeds last year - hopefully they should be giving me hearts to eat by next year or the year after. As well as being good to eat they are beautiful plants and I love to put their leaves in cut flower arrangements. If you can't wait as long as I have for your harvest it is better to get a root cutting from an older plant than starting from scratch with seeds. Good luck!

9:08 AM  
Blogger Catherine said...

I too have quite the seed stash!:)
I will get to start seeds this wk. I too always grow lobelia crystal palace~love that blue hue!
My philosophy~
One can never have too many plants or too many seeds~there is always room for more! :D

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just up the road in Annapolis. Two years ago I started artichoke seeds. They are so easy to grow, you'll love them. The first year I ran in and out covering them each time frost was predicted. The Winter was quite mild. This year, I ignored them completely. This was a much colder Winter. I checked yesterday and found tiny green shoots under all the dead foliage from last year. I had several artichokes from my 2 year old plant last year. So, go for it!

11:48 PM  
Anonymous Jessi said...

Good article and great blog!

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Martha said...

I don't seem to do to well in transplanting so I purchase a lot of my flower seeds from
You get good service and this will be my second season of buying in bulk.

I researched hollyhock seeds on the internet with the free tool found at By using the compare button I even easily saw the photos of the hollyhocks that were being offered on the internet.

After I plant, I then wait to pick the flowers so then I can photograph them.

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Rumela said...

i just got my seeds from market what do i do know what is the best way to germinate? also i got soil and perlite what else do i need for the first 2 weeks of starting how many watts bulb do i need for 2 house plants i wanted to do the plastic cup to start them!! then like move them into a real pot? will that be ok?

4:56 AM  

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