Five ways to raise your flowers and food
Nature hates a gap. That’s why weeds fill in every nook and cranny available to them outdoors. Sprinkling desirable seeds outside as the snow thaws on the south side of your home or Greenhouse Garden this spring lets you copy nature’s best efforts. Inside your greenhouse, scatter seeds on top of pots or flats. A light dusting of soil and a sheet of glass laid flat over trays keeps the humidity high until the seeds grow.
Once seeds are up let them grow a bit before you transplant them. When each plant has four leaves the young seedlings are strong enough to be moved up individually to a bigger pot. Some plants, like lobelia, basil and onions, thrive best moved together in little clumps. This means transplanting three to four seedlings together into a larger container instead of separating individual plants.
Splitting up mature plants to make more of them is an alternative to seeding. Large clumps of early bloomers like the perennial Primula can be pulled apart right after their early spring blooms finish. Siberian Iris and daylilies have fibrous roots and are best cut apart with a sharp saw or pulled rudely apart by hand at the first sign of green leaves before they start growing too much this spring. Potting these divisions into larger pots on a greenhouse bench lets you grow them up a bit before they are placed permanently back into the garden.
Bearded iris and potatoes have fleshy roots called tubers. The iris are better divided after they bloom but the spuds? They are left on a counter for up to eight weeks to sprout indoors before planting. If your spuds are still in a plastic bag in a moldy closet, get them out into the daylight before they send up white shoots. Spuds can be left whole on a tray indoors and just before they are planted, each sprouted potato is cut into pieces before planting.
Moving divisions into pots in your greenhouse before moving them outside lets you expand your blooms and potatoes beyond your wildest dreams.
I was surprised when piles of branches left on the ground after I pruned my grapes last year sprouted when I dumped a load of compost on them in my backyard. This year I deliberately clipped my pencil-thick winter trimmings into pieces, leaving a single bud above the soil and one below. They are rooting now in my greenhouse and I’ll soon have 100 new grape plants to share with friends and neighbours.
Woody sprouts at the base of my dormant figs were clipped off and each plunked into a 1-gallon pot filled with soil. All cuttings were watered, placed over a heat mat and covered with plastic to keep the humidity in. In a week or two I’ll start seeing small roots form and buds leaf out.
Spending time in my greenhouse is a guilty pleasure. I often make lunch, grab my phone and settle into a chair in the humid greenhouse just to snatch a few minutes of tropical joy from my normally busy day. I love to seed and plant but I also enjoy sitting and watching the plants grow. A greenhouse is so much more than a production facility. It is a home away from home with a factory of plant potential just waiting to grow. I am escaping to the tropics without leaving home by walking into my greenhouse right now. Ahh- smells so good.
More From Donna
For more great tips from Donna, visit www.donnabalzer.com.
You can also read Donna’s gardening books too! The No Guff Vegetable Gardening Book and her just-released Gardener’s Gratitude Journal: Part Diary, Part Personal Growing Guide.