by Bobby Blair
Is It Spring Yet?
As I write the outside thermometer reads 19 degrees. That's quite a shock to my system as I have just returned after spending six weeks in Florida where the temps. were averaging 80 degrees. A huge pile of seed catalogs along with bills and tax information awaits my attention. Snow two feet high still lines both sides of my greenhouse where yesterday's inside temperatures at 2:05 p.m. read a pleasant 81 degrees. You may ask is it time to plant seeds indoors yet?
The seed catalogs may have arrived but it's still a bit early to get tomato seedlings going -- unless you have a heated greenhouse. Mid-March is a better time to get those Big Boy or cherry tomatoes started, lest they get leggy. If you haven't noticed, the price of seeds along with everything else has been on the rise in the past few years. With many local commercial greenhouses heated by oil, expect to pay a king's ransom for those pretty annuals come this spring.
So what is the solution? You'd be surprised what a little potting soil, a container, and a south facing window inside your home can produce. Check the fine print in those seed catalogs to see just how many seeds are contained in each packet. Remember – germination rates can vary anywhere between 50 and 95 percent.
While planning for the Downtown Marigold Project (we do plant other species of flowers) I check seed catalogs for bargains. For instance, Henry Field's catalog out of Indiana sells Stargazer lily bulbs for $5.95 each. Netherland Bulb Company in Pennsylvania sells the exact same bulb for $.75 if you purchase at least 25 bulbs. While everyone may not buy in bulk, for those compulsive green thumbs, buying at least 25 bulbs amounts to an astonishing saving of $130. You can contact Netherland at www.netherlandbulb.com.
Another company which I deal with is Stokes out of Buffalo, New York. While I receive the commercial growers catalog, prices vary little between the home delivered versions. Unlike other seed catalogs, Stokes let you purchase seeds in varying amounts. The larger your purchase for like seeds, the greater bang for your buck. Another source of reasonably priced seeds I found quite by accident is Main Street Seed and Supply. While these folks don't send out a fancy colorful catalog they do have a printable online catalog. Main Streets selection is limited, but take a look for yourself at www.mainstreetseedandsupply.com
For those who procrastinate with flower and plant growing as well as having their tax returns ready for the Spring deadline, be advised that like the IRS, local farm stands are busy preparing for those who just don't seem to get around to getting things done. Why pay a penalty though.