No, not the Carly Simon song.

I apologize…because now you are probably going to have that song playing in your head for the rest of the day.

My heart is beating fast this morning. In anticipation. I am selecting seeds to start for my garden.

It is a great consolation to a northern climate gardener to start seeds indoors in February. The opportunity to play in the dirt, to watch something grow, to nurture it until it’s time to put it in the ground…it really helps to distract me from how long the winter is.

I can’t have a vegetable garden because I have too much shade in my yard. So, I focus on flowers and a few herbs.

zinnias

Zinnias from seed

Now, how do I decide what to start from seed? Here are my criteria:

1. Unusual perennials or plants that are difficult to find in the usual round of nurseries;

2. Described as easy to start from seed by this book (some things pose insurmountable problems to mortals like you and me); and/or

3. Something I want a lot of and can’t afford to buy as plants in a larger quantity. For example, a couple of years ago I decided I wanted a bunch of Jacob’s Ladder. They’re lovely and vigorous and have pretty blue/purple flowers and thrive in the shade. The plants I started from seed did really well and I was able to put eight (8) healthy Jacob’s Ladder in my yard that year. If I was buying the plants, I probably would have been able to plant 1 or 2. I had to be a little patient for them to get big, but that’s ok.

Just so you know – not all of the seeds were a success. At least some of all of the varieties germinated successfully. But they didn’t all thrive when I put them in the garden. I was especially disappointed about the papaver orientale (Oriental Poppies) not taking, but I will probably try an established plant for that one. There’s no point in holding grudges where the garden is concerned.

This year I am thinking about the following:

More zinnias, definitely! I kept cutting them for bouquets and they kept coming back…my driveway was stunning!

Sweet William/Alyssum (lobularia maritime); Cosmos; Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa); Boltonia; Mallow (Malvia); Heliopsis; Wild Ginger; Coleus (Solenostemon); Hollyhocks; Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum).

Jacob's Ladder

Jacob's Ladder from seed

I know that it can be a bit intimidating to figure out where to start. Gardeners Supply makes it really easy (that’s how I learned) by offering an easy-to-use kit and all of the information you need. Here’s why they recommend starting from seed:

Starting plants from seed is less expensive; there are many more varieties to choose from; you can grow higher-quality plants; you can suit your planting schedule; you will get to enjoy the simple satisfaction of growing your own plants from seed to harvest.

The seeds usually don’t need light to germinate. But they need to be moved into the light once they are above soil. Once the weather starts to warm up, I spend a couple of weeks acclimating my baby plants to the outdoors by putting them in a sheltered place on the deck for at least a few hours a day, then bringing them back inside at night.

Once the danger of frost has passed, they are planted in the garden. After that, nature takes over.

If only it were this easy to raise children (ha)!

Seedlings

Seedlings 2008...can you spot the baby Jacob's Ladder?