Growing Things

Woo hoo, wouldn’t have thought I’d be so excited, but it’s going to get into the 20s tonight and tomorrow and we may see rain before the end of the week. 🙂 Brr, it’s even pretty chilly now. Like many, we’ve had unseasonable weather – amazingly warm and dry. Last season we had some beautiful weather in January and February as well, but we’d started with our requisite rain, snow and followed up with more rain and heavy snow into April. This season we’re getting concerned when we drive past the cows nibbling  itty bitty tufts of brown grass in their un-irrigated pastures that haven’t seen rain for months or think about our plethora of fruit trees that only do well with a certain number of chill hours. So, our growing things schedule is off, the ski resorts are praying for snow, and the rest of us hope for at least some rain and a drought free summer.

Although some do it earlier, January is high season for scanning the plant and seed catalogs, planning next year’s garden, and ordering seeds and supplies. Also, time to make sure you get the last of your bulbs planted if you haven’t already (and I am so into bulb planting right now; above photos were previous season). I’m sticking with the optimism route and plowing forward (he, he) with my garden. I’d mentioned here, that I grow many things from seed and enjoy winter sowing (and more links to winter sowing are in that post). It’s been too warm and sunny to put the seed jugs out, but looks like this week will rectify that. Time to dig in the dirt.

For your own planning, Johnny’s Selected Seeds has a great calendar where you key in your average last frost date and it auto fills your specific planting out dates and seed starting dates. With row covers or any season extenders you can go a tad earlier. If you don’t know your last frost date – just pick any “by zipcode” sites on this Google search.


One of the tricks I learned that I find invaluable is pre-germinating seed in paper towel and baggies.

Label your baggie with a sharpie marker with the date and type of seed, cut your paper towel into quarters, dampen and ring out the towel and arrange your seeds on the damp towel.

Roll up (note this towel is a little too damp. I squish it out before I put it in the baggie).

Place in baggie and leave in a warm spot to germinate.

With large seed like cat grass, I might dump a bunch in the piece of towel. Here you can see it started to sprout and is ready to plant.

Above is sprouting scallion.


I get a pot ready with dirt, put the seeds down, spread them out a tad, cover with dirt and water. You don’t have to remove the paper towel as it’s biodegradable. This is the sprouted cat grass.


With warm weather, or in a protected spot, they’ll be poking through the soil in no time. The cats keep it “trimmed”.



Pak Choi  – from sprouting in Oct to now harvesting young leaves. Pre-germinating is great as you don’t waste space (and time) wondering if your seed is good and going to sprout. It shaves about a week off your seed growing time (see the calendar to figure your seed starting time).


I do sometimes let them sprout a bit longer in the towels than I should, but  am able to get healthy plants. If (with work and life) you can plant them as soon as they sprout, you’ll have nice strong plants and even better survival rates. If you let them go – still plant out and you may be pleasantly surprised at how resilient they are. Above is my Swiss chard. Pre-sprouting is not necessary with winter sowing; I was simply using the milk jug is a mini greenhouse to grow before transplanting to my row covered bed.


If you order seed, don’t forget to throw some sprouting seeds into your order. Park Seed, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and Territorial all have sprouting seed at a good price (and my links will land you on their sprouting pages). Love the larger seed like mung beans in stir fries; smaller sprouts – mustards, broccoli or alfalfa – in sandwiches and salads. Not into any fancy sprouting systems here, I just grab an empty jar, put some boiling water into it for a few moments to sterilize, cut some cheese cloth to cover the top, add seeds and away you go. Generally soak the seeds for half a day or overnight, then rinse in the morning and evening (leave the cheesecloth on, fill the jar with water, tip it over to dump the water out, do a second time). Easiest if you just leave your jars by the kitchen sink. Once they approach readiness, you can move to the refrigerator to slow down growth (and yes, I did let the pictured batch of mungs get pretty green, but they were great). When I harvest a jar, I’ll rinse the cheesecloth in a bleach / water mixture as it gets greenish from the seed covers and, of course, clean and sterilize the jar between batches. You can place your sprouts in a bowl of water to skim off the seed coatings if you don’t care for them. I use either a strong rubber band or the rim of the canning lid to keep the cheesecloth in place. It’s so nice and easy to have fresh greens readily on hand any time.

Well I’m off to “get dirty” while we have some sun and warmth. This post is participating in Sundays in My City – be sure to pop over and see what others around the globe are doing on their weekend.

10 comments on “Growing Things

  1. Tara R. says:

    Your daffodils are gorgeous! Where I live, February is planting season. By mid-month any hard frost risk is over and gardening starts with abandon.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Tara – I’d thought it was year round for you sunny Florida folks – didn’t know you had a winter at all. Gardening must be such a joy for you with your abundance of water and sun!

  2. QandleQueen says:

    I don’t dare put anything in the dirt until the second week in May. It kills me to wait so long, but we get frost all through April.

    • Maggie says:

      Your planting date is the same as mine. Locals say “after the frog jump” which translates to the frog jumping contest at the county fair, 2nd weekend of May. (Frog Jump Courtesy of Mark Twain)

  3. Betsy Henry says:

    You’ve gotten me excited for my garden! We have the same problem here in Colorado… worried about drought, no snow in the mts. but enjoying the warm weather. Snow today though!!!

    • Maggie says:

      Well, it was 21 this morning with 90% chance of rain this week – so winter is finally here. Of course, I have more winter prep I’d hoped to do and even with the extension, never get to everything I’d like. 🙂

  4. Molly says:

    I love daffodils. My favourite flowers of all time.


    • Maggie says:

      Thanks Molly – they are so easy to boot. Love that the animals won’t eat them and they’ll come back year after year here (if I move them out of pots and into the ground).

  5. unknownmami says:

    Fascinating! We definitely need some rain. We’ve been eating mustard greens, carrots, and potatoes that my husband and daughter planted. I’m so happy that my kids are growing up with someone who likes to grow things. I grew up so oblivious to those things. It’s strange. My mother grew up on a farm and they were “dirt” poor. When she was old enough she got as far away from it as possible and I was never exposed to anything truly having to do with the earth and its abundance. It’s a shame.

  6. startraci says:

    Wow! The flowers are beautiful. My daughter wants to try a patio garden again this year. I killed everything last time. I’m hoping for more success — fingers crossed!


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