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Perennial Sweet Peas Seeds need Cold Stratification to Germinate!

Some seeds, like Pansies or perennial Sweet Peas, need special treatment to be able to break dormancy and germinate! If you have wondered why you have never had luck germinating some plants from perfectly fresh seed, cold stratification may be what is needed!

Susan Patterson, Master Gardener, says stratification sequences may vary: ‘Some seeds require a warm and moist treatment, while others require a cool and wet treatment. Even still, other seeds require a combination of both warm and cool treatments followed by a warm treatment, or a combination of warm and cool moist followed by a dry cycle and warm period to germinate. Knowing what seeds require to break dormancy is critical before beginning any seed stratification project.’ Also some plants require stratification from heat, like from fires, to help expose the seed to air and moisture.

The main requirements of Cold stratification are cold and moist. Depending on where you live, it is best to plant when winter is here to stay. If you plant when it is too warm, the seed coat can break down and you may have little germination.

But if you are starting in early season, soak your seeds 12 to 24 hours and put them in a plastic bag or sealable container with sand, peat, or equal amounts of sand and peat. Date and label. Check frequently to see if they are sprouting. Some seeds require a longer period; some need to be in the freezer!

Pinetree Garden Seeds says: ‘Soaking them in cold water for 6-12 hours before starting the process can help cut down on the total stratification time needed. This also helps the seed absorb some of the moisture it requires for the chemical changes that will take place.’

There are different methods, but mainly two.

In the Ground!

1) If your plant reseeds, as soon as it seeds, you can simply broadcast your seed if it doesn’t matter where they come up. Any rowdy ones that come up not in accordance with your garden plan can be transplanted where you might decide you want them, you could give them away, or last resort, eat if appropriate, or compost. I use the broadcast method for Breadseed Poppies. But sometimes you may reroute your garden plan to accomodate what you think will become a lovely display of beauty!

If you have a seed packet, in fall, a more formal version is to decide where you want them, prep that soil, scratch in your seeds. Mark the spot, date and label with a tag. Keep them moist; they will come up when they are ready.

The dangers of these two plans may be floods or wildly fluctuating weather, ie cold, HOT, cold. Keep some backup seeds just in case you need them. Then you go to the #2 methods, or you can do both a 1 and a 2 of your choice just in case…

Seed Cold Stratification Paper Towel

In the Fridge or Freezer!

2) You can use the paper towel method. Moisten the towel, put seeds on one side, fold the towel over on them. Put the towel in a plastic bag, zip it closed. Put it in the fridge and wait. Some say to check every 2 to 3 days, remove any that mold. Others say check in 10 days. Some say it may take up to a month or two. If they get brown spots around them or smell musty, they are rotting and should be tossed. But mainly is to keep that towel moist!

If you have a seed packet, here is the lazy gardener’s choice offered by myseedneeds for poppies! ‘We recommend a short cold stratification period of 6 to 12 weeks, though simply storing your seed packets in your crisper drawer for a couple of months is a trick used by gardeners who don’t want to mess with damp paper towels and plastic baggies.’

Seed Cold Stratification in Sand, Peat, Worm CastingsOr…you can presoak your seeds. Pot up sand or peat, or equal sand and peat; add worm castings to help germination. Put in your seeds. Put the pot or container in the fridge, or put the pot ON the ground in a sheltered place or sink it up to the top of the pot on the colder north side of your building! Be sure to keep those seeds moist.

Important Sustainability point from Harold and the Cats of Alchemy: ‘Seeds…won’t come up all at the same time, like the seeds of most cultivated plants are bred to do. Seeds that use cold to germinate are closer to the wild and so have a good reason to stagger their germination – more are likely to survive that way, and you will get more genetic variation. That means there will be a greater likelihood of getting plants that will survive and prosper in your conditions.’

Plants that can prosper from Cold Stratification treatment

Terms like “self-sowing”, “perennial”, “cold hardy”, or “cold stratification” on a seed packet are indicators your seeds may need cold treatment.

Many Common Domestic Flowers, important companion plants: Bachelor Buttons, BreadSeed Poppy, Cosmos and Pansies, Johnny Jump Ups and Violets (edible petals), Sweet Peas, Zinnia are a few.

Wildflowers! Here’s a terrific MAP to select native wildflowers that need cold stratification before planting in spring for your area! American Meadows! Native wildflowers are terrific companion plants that attract native bees! They need to be in your fridge 4 to 5 weeks, so be sure to start early enough for planting time. Your seeds will germinate quicker and grow well. Don’t forget native Milkweed for Monarchs!

Many Common herbs, perennials, also important veggie companion plants and provide food for pollinators: Calendula, Lavender, Rosemary and Sage

Seed Cold Stratification Sapphire Sage, Salvia Farinacea

Sapphire Sage, Salvia Farinacea

Be sure to look up each plant individually to see it’s specific needs, ie length of time and temp. Here’s an example at SFGate for Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale), a perennial. Some poppies grow readily but the Oriental poppies need special treatment!

  1. Place 2 tablespoons perlite or sand in a plastic bag. Moisten it slightly with water, but don’t allow it to become soggy.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon poppy seeds to the bag and mix the seeds with the perlite or sand.
  3. Place the sealed bag in the refrigerator for two weeks. Check it occasionally and provide more water if necessary to keep it slightly moist. Do not allow it to dry out.
  4. Remove the bag from the refrigerator and store it in a cool, dry location for one week. Place the bag back in the refrigerator for two more weeks.
  5. Repeat this cycle of cold and thaw for six weeks to up to three months. Sprinkle the stratified poppy seeds on moist soil in early spring. They will germinate within two weeks when the soil temperature is between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. [So start your process in plenty of time!]
Cold Stratification is a simple technique that may take a little dedication, but it really pays off!

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Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

The Green Bean Connection newsletter started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA, Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara city community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are in a fog belt/marine layer area most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

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Mediterranean Understory & Guild Plants for Food Forests – Part 2

Please SEE Part 1 before you read this list!


Here is what a young Food Forest can look like in a part of your urban yard!

Linda’s List here is intended for a Mediterranean climate like coastal Southern California has, one of only 5 in the world. The list in your area may be different. Check out your local gardeners’ successes, check with your local nursery. This list is not tree specific yet. We’re working on that!

More than a list of plants, Linda’s List gives tips for good growing, eating, and usage!
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Once our fruit trees are planted in their water-saving basins in a budding Mediterranean food forest, it’s now time to think about what else to plant in these usually moist wells and swales. Or up the trees? Or nearby? We need these companion plants to increase our food and medicine yield, and also to enrich the soil, provide habitat, pull up minerals and other nutrients from deep in the earth, draw nitrogen from the air and bring it into the soil, attract beneficial insects to control pests, create shade for delicate roots — and to provide beauty, a critical psychological and spiritual yield in every garden.

Thanks to the members of the Permaculture Guild of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Organic Garden Club for their ideas and input. Additions and corrections are welcome.  Please email lbuzzell@aol.com. Especially welcome would be input on what plants do best under specific fruit trees – so far I don’t have much information on that.

BERRIES
Blueberry. To grow well here, they need acid soil, so a container is often the best solution, since Santa Barbara soil and water tend to be alkaline. One gardener we know waters hers with a very dilute solution of white vinegar, plus puts pine needles, coffee grounds around the plant. Best in Mediterranean climates are the low-chill varieties like ‘Misty,”O’Neal,’ ‘Sharpblue’
Cane berries. Upright cane berries are fun to pop in here and there as understory plants and they take some shade. But we found out the hard way that you probably don’t want to put in sprawling, thorny berries (especially blackberry) that sucker underground – they pop up all over the yard and are hard to eradicate. When we buy new berries we limit ourselves to thornless varieties and our current favorites are ‘Navajo’ and ‘Apache,’ although the thorny varieties that still linger in our garden – and will probably be there for hundreds of years as they’re ineradicable – taste best. So we live with them and enjoy the berries.
Elderberry. Shrub. There is a California native variety. Produces edible fragrant white flowers (used to make elderberry syrup and wine) and edible small blue berries that the birds love. Ripe berries are safe to eat but leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and roots are toxic. Has medicinal uses. We use our elderberry as a sacrificial plant attracting birds away from other fruit trees.
Lemonade Berry (native). Rhus integrifolia. Can also control erosion.

BULBS AND ROOT CROPS
Placement of these may take special care, as you don’t want to plant them too close to delicate tree roots.
Carrots
Edible canna. Canna edulis –Achira. Flowers are smaller than most cannas and the root is edible, can be chopped and sautéed like potato.
Onions
Potato and sweet potato

EDIBLE FLOWERS (note: most fruit trees, veggies and herbs also have edible flowers. Always triple check the safety of any flower before eating!
Daylilies. Hemerocallis species. Buds are used in Chinese stir fry, Petals in salad.
Nasturtium (flowers, young leaves and buds that may be pickled like capers) Let the plants die back in place. They will reseed and form a straw mulch.
Roses (yield petals for salads, sandwiches, syrups, desserts; rose hips for tea, syrups, jam)
Scarlet runner bean
Scented geranium

HERBS (most have edible flowers in addition to other uses)
Borage
Chili peppers, including tree chili
Cilantro
Garlic
Italian parsley
Lavender
Lemon balm
Lemon verbena. A drought tolerant shrub with delicious leaves for tea.
Mint. Some fear its vigorous, spreading roots, but we welcome it into drier areas as ground cover, autumn bee food and a source of fresh leaves for cooking and tea.
Mustard (young leaves can be stir fried, flowers are edible, plus seeds for making mustard)
Pineapple sage (leaves and flowers make delicious herbal tea)
Oregano
Rosemary
Sage

SHRUBS/Understory trees
Guava. Psidium Tropical shrubs native to Mexico, Central and South America that yield white, yellow or pink fruit. Not to be confused with Pineapple Guava (Feijoa) Psidium guajava (apple guava) is one tasty variety. Also try lemon guava and strawberry guava.

VEGGIES (there’s no way to name them all – it’s fun to experiment to see what likes the soil under and around your fruit trees. Our favorites are those that overwinter and/or reseed themselves)
Artichokes. Plant away from tree roots, in baskets as the gophers love them.
Brassicas like broccoli, kale, collard greens.
Chard.
Dandelions. Leaves are great in salads and so good for us. Small birds like the seed heads.
Fava beans and other beans.
New Zealand spinach.

VINES
We often forget about vertical space in the garden, but it’s nice to increase your yield by growing edible vines up fruit trees, on walls and over arbors, fences and hedges.
Grapes. Note: the Permaculture Guild of Santa Barbara has a separate list of recommended table and wine grapes for our area. Contact lbuzzell@aol.com for details
Passion Fruit. A garden member says “mine is simply rampant, productive and trouble-free; gets little to no supplemental water.” The juice can be used to make a spectacular salad dressing (served at Los Arroyos on Coast Village Road in their tropical salad).

MISCELLANEOUS
Bamboo. Use clumping instead of running kinds to avoid it taking over your garden. Bamboo shoots are a delicacy in Asia.
Pepino melon.
Sacrificial plants. In permaculture designs we often plant trees, shrubs and other plants that are nitrogen-accumulators, “nurse” plants or fruit-providers for animals that might otherwise eat our crops. When they have performed their function, we “chop and drop” them around our fruit trees as a nutritious mulch.
Yucca. We’ve read that yucca yields edible fruit and flower buds. Anyone have more info on this?

BENEFICIAL ATTRACTORS AND NUTRIENT ACCUMULATORS
Ceanothus. Shrubs and ground covers that fix nitrogen in the soil.
Salvia, ornamental. These are treasures in the Mediterranean forest garden.
Tagetes lemmonii. Golden color is lovely in fall.

GROUND COVER
Easy-to-grow succulents can provide temporary ground cover for delicate roots. They can act as a living mulch until other plants take over that function. This crop is often free, as gardeners who have ground-cover sedums always have too many and are glad to share.
Pelargoniums and lantana are other easy, colorful ground cover that can be removed as needed.
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#1 Home Permaculture book in the world for seven years!

Per PatternLiteracy.com, Toby Hemenway’s home site, Gaia’s Garden has been the best-selling permaculture book in the world for the last 7 years. The enlarged, updated 2nd edition is the winner of the 2011 Nautilus Gold Medal Award.

The first edition of Gaia’s Garden sparked the imagination of America’s home gardeners, introducing permaculture’s central message: Working with nature, not against her, results in more beautiful, abundant, and forgiving gardens. This extensively revised and expanded second edition broadens the reach and depth of the permaculture approach for urban and suburban growers.

Treat yourself and your land to this incredibly efficient way of gardening. Wisely use ALL the space available to you in a good way. Nature is the Master Gardener – follow her lead.

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BLACK FRIDAY GARDEN GIFTS!  Gifts to Give, Gifts to Get!

Pour a little garden love into your loved one’s life this holiday season!

Lovely Fitz and Floyd Vegetable Garden 8" Pitcher seen on eBay at BlueHowMuch! $29.95

Make Organic, Sustainable Holiday Gifts!  This is the prime time to start winter gift plantings for holiday giving!  Start a salad bowl, make some pesto ice cubes – harvest before your basil freezes, collect basil seeds while you are at it!  Gather seeds to put in pretty little jars – label and tie with a bright festive bow.  Some of those seeds can be used for seasoning, some for planting!  Dry and powder some herbs for teas, pillows, sachets!  Make scented candles or creams, soaps or shampoos!  Sage darkens your hair, chamomile lightens.  Make an herb wreath, or classic orange pomander balls.  Herbed vinegars & oils are simple to make, and beautiful!  In white wine or rice vinegars:

  • Lavender is rose red
  • Nasturtium flowers release neon orange
  • Sage in flower & purple basil are magenta!

Likewise, be thinking of what you can give your loved one or good friend in the way of gardening items!  Buy local!  How about that special tool, a new shovel?  Some seeds?  A container or garden decoration they have been longing for, a beauteous trellis.  Oh, some of those fancy flowered rain boots?!  YES!  Gloves – those old ones are worn out, you know.  Supplies like special potting mixes, fertilizers.  Books on the topic dearest their heart – Recipes, garden specialities, California Master Gardener Handbook!  Sponsor them for the class they would like to take but didn’t have the dough. Garden plates and mugs.  That catalog and a gift certificate to go with it!  Local services, like an hour of time on something that takes a little more doing than one person would like to do alone, or a consult with your local sustainable landscaper!  Hey, it’s a win/win!  It’s sustainable and makes you both happy!  Trifecta!

Oh, and don’t forget to leave your own garden shopping list lying about the house…if someone tries to discourage you from buying something on the list, let them.  Who knows what will show up with a bow on it?!

Next week:  A Little About Onions, a LOT About GARLIC!

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