The Cranky Gardener

3 Conversations

Starting Seeds Indoors

Just when you thought it was safe to read The Post again, I'm back and I'm cranky. I took a week's vacation so I could work in my garden. This should make me happy, right? It would have if Mother Nature hadn't gotten her knickers in a knot and decided to get all cold and rainy on me.

The first three days were wonderful. I even got sunburned. I nearly doubled the size of my vegetable plot. Last year I had a veritable jungle because I bought too many seeds and had to plant everything too close together in order to have room for them. The weeds were even crowded. Now I not only have room for proper paths, but I can have a small corn patch as well.

Then day four rolled around bringing rain. The temperature dropped below freezing. I was totally po'd. But, good little Pollyanna that I am, I found a way to plant anyway. I started some seeds inside in seed trays. Actually, this is the first year for some time that I haven't jumped the gun and started them too early. Now when they are large enough to set out, the soil will be nice and warm and the seedlings will get off to a quick start.

I know it's tempting to plant as early as possible. But, from experience, I have learned that until the soil outside is warm, your plants are just going to sit there - if you're lucky and they don't freeze. Remember, it isn't just air temperature you need to be concerned with in the spring. The soil temperature is important as well.

Starting your own plants from seed can be simple or complicated, depending on the seed. Not all plant varieties have the same requirements. What we're going to talk about this time are some of the things you need to know before you sow your seeds. Some seeds require cool temperatures in order to germinate. Some require warm temperatures. Some seeds require light, and others require darkness. Some seeds should be nicked before they are planted. Some should be soaked first.

What follows is a laundry list of culture conditions and those flowers that fall into each category. I hope your favorites are all included. Next time we will talk about starting vegetables from seed. All seedlings require light once they have germinated. Place under fluorescent lights if available or in a sunny window.

Category A

Sow these seeds inside in a warm place (70-75º F; 21.1 - 23.9ºC). These plants do better as potted plants and need to be overwintered.

  • Achimenes
  • African Violet
  • Asparagus Fern
  • Begonia (wax)
  • Cacti
  • Calla Lily
  • Catanache
  • Clivia
  • Cupid's Bower
  • Eucalyptus
  • Fuchsia
  • Jasmine
  • Passion Flower
  • Sedum
  • Stephanotis
  • Succulents

Category B

Sow these varieties inside in a cool room in late winter. They will be ready to set outside or to place in containers in 6-8 weeks.

  • Angel's Trumpet
  • Aquilegia
  • Arisaema
  • Bells of Ireland
  • Columbine
  • Coral Bells
  • Coreopsis
  • Cyclamen
  • Datura
  • Heuchera
  • Jack-In-The-Pulpit
  • Nemesia
  • Nemophilia
  • Penstemon
  • Snapdragon

Category C

These varieties may be sown inside in a cool place in late winter or outdoors in either late fall or early spring while the soil is still cool.

  • Alyssum
  • Ammi
  • Arcotis
  • Aster
  • Astilbe
  • Bellis
  • Bergenia
  • Blazing Star (Liatris)
  • Cabbage (ornamental)
  • Calendula (Pot Marigold)
  • Candytuft
  • Dianthus
  • English Daisy
  • Eupatorium
  • Freesia
  • Kale (ornamental)
  • Larkspur
  • Livingston Daisy
  • Lupine
  • Money Plant
  • Nigella
  • Paper Daisy
  • Persian Buttercup
  • Pigsqueak
  • Poppy
  • Ranunculus
  • Statice
  • Sweet Pea

Category D

Sow inside in a warm place in late winter (6-8 weeks before setting outside) to be set out in late spring after all danger of frost has passed.

  • Agastache
  • Ageratum
  • Alternanthera
  • Asarina
  • Aster
  • Bachelor's Button
  • Balloon Flower
  • Balsam
  • Bellflower
  • Blanket Flower (Galliardia, perennial)
  • Blue Lace Flower
  • Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Campanula
  • Catmint
  • Celosia
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Clematis
  • Cleome (Spider Flower)
  • Coleus
  • Dahlberg Daisy
  • Dahlia
  • Dicondra
  • Digitalis (Foxglove)
  • Evening Primrose
  • Floss Flower
  • Gazania
  • Geranium
  • Gerbera
  • Gloriosa Daisy
  • Gomphrena
  • Hibiscus
  • Hollyhock
  • Hosta
  • Impatients
  • Lily
  • Lisianthus
  • Lobelia
  • Malva (Hollyhock Mallow)
  • Monkey Flower
  • Nepeta
  • Nicotania
  • Pepper (ornamental)
  • Petunia
  • Portulaca
  • Rudbeckia
  • Salvia
  • Stokes Aster
  • Strawflower
  • Vinca

Category E

Sow inside in a cool place (8-10 weeks before setting outside). Sow in winter to set out in early spring while ground is still cool; or sow in summer to set outside in early fall; or sow outside in early spring or early fall.

  • Agapanthus
  • Candy Lily
  • Carnation
  • Coneflower (Echinacea)
  • Delphinium
  • Dianthus
  • Monarda
  • Pansy
  • Pyrethrum
  • Shasta Daisy
  • Verbascum
  • Yarrow

Category F

Sow indoors, cover with a plastic bag and refrigerate for 6 weeks. Following refrigeration, move to a cool location (60º F - 15.6º C) for 8-10 weeks before setting outside in spring. Or sow outside in early spring when frost may still occur.

  • Daylily (Hemerocallis)
  • Eryngium

Category G

Sow where plants are to grow after all danger of frost. Or sow inside in peat pots so that pot and all can be set into the garden.

  • Amaranthus
  • Cardinal Climber
  • Cypress Vine
  • Glory Vine
  • Hyacinth Bean
  • Osteospermum
  • Snail Vine

Category H

Sow outside in warm soil or sow inside 2-3 weeks before setting outside.

  • Black-eyed Susan Vine
  • Blanket Flower (Gaillardia, Annual)
  • Calico Flower
  • Cosmos
  • Ferns
  • Four-O-Clock
  • Globe Thistle
  • Gourds
  • Helenium
  • Linaria
  • Marigold
  • Millet (ornamental)
  • Moon Vine
  • Morning Glory
  • Nasturtium
  • Prairie Coneflower
  • Rumex
  • Statice (annual)
  • Sunflower
  • Tithjonia
  • Verbena
  • Zinnia

Category I

Seeds that require light to germinate. Sow on the surface of the soil.

  • African Violet
  • Aquilegia
  • Arisaema
  • Asarina
  • Balloon Flower
  • Begonia
  • Bells of Ireland
  • Coleus
  • Columbine
  • Coral Bells
  • Coreopsis
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Fuchsia
  • Impatiens1
  • Jack-In-The-Pulpit
  • Lobelia
  • Nicotiana
  • Penstemon
  • Petunia
  • Portulaca
  • Strawflower

Category J

Seeds that require dark to germinate. Make sure they are well covered.

  • Coneflowers
  • Cyclamen
  • Evening Primrose
  • Nasturtium
  • Tithonia
  • Vinca

Whew! Did you get all that? Two other things. When starting Hibiscus, pour hot water over the seeds and let them soak over night before planting. And large seeds like nasturtium will germinate better if you take a paring knife and make a small nick in each seed before planting.

It is nearly warm enough to fire up the grill and barbecue. One of my favourite things to make on the grill is kabobs. They are easy to make, are colourful and you can be creative with your ingredients. The trick to successful kabobs is to make sure that all of your ingredients will cook at the same speed. So you won't want to put raw potatoes on the same skewers as bell peppers, for example, or you will wind up with burned peppers. Steam the potatoes first. And try to cut your ingredients into pieces of about the same size. You can make all meat skewers, all veggie skewers, or mix them up. You can use metal or wooden skewers, but when you use wooden ones be sure you soak them in water first for a few minutes.

Hypatia's Favourite Kabobs


  • Boneless chicken breast, cut into 2" - 5cm - cubes
  • Baby zucchini2, sliced into 2" - 5cm - pieces
  • Bell peppers, use a variety of colours, cut into 2" - 5cm - pieces
  • Red onion, cut into 2" - 5cm - pieces
  • Italian salad dressing

Alternate the meat and vegetables on skewers. Baste with the Italian salad dressing every 15 minutes for 2 hours. Grill.

How easy is that? Serve with a salad and seasoned rice.

The Cranky Gardener


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