July 26, 2010

Planning Ahead - Sowing Seeds of Summer Perennials and Biennials

An arrangement of Phlox, Green Zinnia and Stokesia

This may seem like a slow time in the garden, but mid-summer can be a time for seed starting. There was a time, not long ago, when hardy gardeners followed a strict regimen of succession planting in the vegetable garden, and exercised good horticultural practices both in the greenhouse and in the perennial border, for July was the prime time for sowing many seeds of choice biennials and perennials. Summer sown crops would be nurtured in rows  in a nursery bed, often near the vegetable garden where seedlings could be tended to throughout the rest of the summer in neat rows ( the way my parents would grow their seedlings of delphiniums, foxgloves and lupines), and then planted out in location, before the first frost.

Mid Summer flowers, resting a a vase before arranging. In this heat, a few hours in the shade, will help these more unusual selections, harden off before arranging for a dinner arrangement.

Not only is this a cost effective way to obtain the dozens of plants necessary for magnificent perennial displays ( for one can easily afford to plant 36 or so Foxgloves in a single area) but it also had the benefit of choice- for you can choose exactly the variety, or color of a certain genus which is not available elsewhere. Try ordering some seed this week, and see how easy it is to get many plants of some very choice varieties.

I will be planting Dianthis barbatus ( sweetwilliam) and  Digitalis ( Foxglove) this week, as well as succession sowing in the vegetable garden. Lettuce ( red and green Lolo), Turnips, Mustard greens, green beans, and Kohlrabi all are being sown this week. Many cole ( cabbage family crops) prefer a mid to late summer sowing, since the warmer soil temperatures aid in germination, the inevitable cooler nights in August and the shorter day length allow for a nice, slow growing period which all cabbage family plants prefer.  We plan to be able to harvest summer sown Kale, mustard, collards, chinese cabbage and many Asian types of Cabbage family plants like Bok Choy  right up until Thanksgiving. Not that we are growing all of these this year, but a half dozen varieties of cabbage family plants will be sown.

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