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I know most people would think that it's too dang early to be digging the seeds out, but not in this house.

I will be setting up my grow lights and my trays, and buying some good potting mix this year, [not the cheap stuff] and planting my tomatoes and tomatillos, and peppers and egg plants, and herbs in trays for my garden.

I don't want to pay 3 dollars a seedling or more at the store. And I prefer pesticide free, organic plants, grown using sustainable practices.

So that narrows most of my gardening practices down to DYI from seeds purchased from various heirloom companies, or trading with other gardeners of a like mind.

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This year I will be installing poles for a canopy. We are expecting drought again this year sadly. And because the temperatures are so high, in excess of 110, the soil becomes so heated that it stunts the growth of plants, sterilizes many seeds before they can germinate, sterilized pollen and sometimes just kills stuff outright.

I know I have complained of this before, but last year and the year before, my okra didn't even germinate. This is shocking. Okra does well in high heat, but it was too hot, even for that hardy plant.

The "snow" we received the other day, what a disappointment! Actually it was all ice and sleet, and not that much. I know, me complaining that there wasn't enough ice? Well our lakes are drying up. Our wells will go soon after. So any moisture we get, is a blessing at this point. This fall and winter have been dryer than usual, making for high fire danger, and continuous drought conditions.

Not to mention the continuous hype on the tee-vee regarding the possibility of sledding. The kids were not amused with the outcome. The youngest was thoroughly confused. It looked like snow, but when you walk on it you soon realize it's compacted sleet, and not much of it. When the snow didn't happen, one newscaster pleaded with the audience, not to come for him with pitchforks and torches.

I guess it's just another side effect of Oklahoma's love-hate affair with winter weather. Everyone complains that it shuts the entire area down, but many are secretly pleased, because they can play in the snow or at least get a day or half a day off, sometimes more.

I have quite a collection of seeds I am looking at. One for the bees:

12-27-2012 103

I should have put these in a couple months ago, but I am sure we will have a warm spell and I can still put them in, to be stratified by nature. If not, I will throw them in the fridge for a bit. Some seeds need to be cold-treated, to activate their germination process, that is called stratification.

I would like to take and mix the seeds all up and have a mixed bed, but I think that the buckwheat would choke a lot of stuff out. So I may keep that in a separate, adjacent area.

Check out the products for Saving the Bees:
Botanical Interests, Save the Bees.  A singular packet to make things a bit easier for you.

I went to the House of Bees website, and I see no more seeds for sale. Don't know why that is, but here is the link, they also sell plans for hives and have links to other sites interested in supporting our pollinators.

The easiest flowers to grow for bees and butterflies:
White Dutch Clover
Sun Flowers
Zinnias
Cosmos
Basil

You could just make a bed with that and be good. The clover requires a bit more water than the other varieties, but it does make a nice cover between the taller plants.

A great source for flowers and vegetable seeds: Seed Saver's Exchange. Here is a link to their flower pages.
And
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Oh how I long for a fresh tomato that was grown in the sun. I always get that way in the Winter. I know I can get vine ripened tomatoes in the store, but they still don't taste the same. The juice in a fresh tomato grown outside, tastes like liquid sunshine. The only thing comparable is perhaps home brewed mead--another version of liquid sunshine.

If we ever get past this drought, I might make enough honey to brew my own. Til then, I will have to limp along and be very conservative in my take from the hives.

This is a small selection of vegetable seeds:
12-27-2012 106

I haven't quite decided which ones to pick yet.

The good news is that my Rosmary is growing like crazy. With any luck I will have a hedge of it in another year. I want to put a row of lavender in as well, but haven't gotten around to it.

The painful part in this process is paying extra for good quality seed starting mix. So far, I have had NO luck with the usual brands you find in box stores. I have issues with fungi in that soil, several times, from different bags and lots and years. No More!

I will just bite the bullet and buy myself a big bag of the proper soil at one of the Nurseries. 20+ dollars a bag, but when you loose all your seedlings to fungus, you end up paying a lot more than that. Organic seeds are more expensive, and after you spend on those and they die, then you get to pay for seedlings at the last minute to boot. It sucks. Don't do it!

Right now gardening in Oklahoma is more like Gardening in Arizona. Stuff that normally does well in part sun needs full shade, and more water, stuff that does well in full sun, needs dappled shade and more water. And even those precautions are no guarantee. If the soil gets too hot, it doesn't matter where you put anything. It all shrivels and dies anyhow.

What I want to do, is to start a serious butterfly garden as well. I put passion flowers in last year, to attract and raise Gulf Fritillaries, but they didn't bloom. However even with the ice, they are still green with leaves! I want to add Green Milkweed and the fancier varieties of milkweed like pink and orange, along with zinnias. I have a patch of Missouri Primroses as well, and rings of day lilies around the trees, though the extreme heat even knocked them back.

I also read this fall, in Nomads of the Wind, that Goldenrod is a most welcome food source for migrating monarchs. I have some growing in a field behind my house, and I have left there. I might try some cultivated varieties in other areas.

Goldenrod nectar is one of the best things that can happen to a monarch butterfly; and for a long-distance migrant, who has already [if one compares her with a human long distance runner] flown for a very long distance in an anaerobic state, goldenrod must be as good as nourishing food and a pick-me-up all in one. pp 27
I think that people focus so much on the larval host plant of the Monarch [the milkweeds], that they forget that this butterfly visits many different flowers as an adult. This makes sense because milkweeds bloom for a limited amount of time, and so their pollen and nectar isn't available during the adult migrations. That means other flowers like Goldenrod, Aster, Sunflowers, esp Tithonias are needed for nourishment for the trips back and forth between N. America and Mexico.

As for vegetables, I learned that Green Sweat Bees like tomato blossoms,  I guess you learn something new every day.  There they were, climbing in and out of the blooms like crazy last summer before the heat set in. I wonder how big a part those play in tomato and pepper pollination? I shall have to keep an eye out this season as well.

My biggest issue with seed starting to date: I want to grow everything. I tend to bite off more than I can chew. I don't know if this happens to other people, but I have to remind myself not to crowd the seedlings, and to limit my selections, because I don't have my entire piece of property ready for a garden, which means limited space in my raised beds for the 50  kinds of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants I fantasize about.

Sadly last year's drought probably killed the last of my peaches. We will know for sure this spring, but it's not looking good. I hope they surprise me. What I really want are apricots. I have some large trees near my house that are in decline and will have to be removed soon. I will replace them with apricots and pie cherries.

Soon, I will be putting potatoes in the ground, under straw and some plastic sheets. It's almost that time.

Why start seeds so soon? Because this is how you get larger seedlings for the planting season. If you wait until your frost date to start seeds, you are behind the 8 ball. However it takes some practice to start seeds, and keep those babies alive indoors until planting time.

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to GreenMother on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 06:08 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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