2021 February Seed and Plant Purchases

There are still plenty of work to be done to clear the beds of storm debris and frost damaged plants. But the seed starting bug has already bitten me hard.

End of January, I had already started a batch of veggie soil blocks which include tomatoes, habaneros, bok choy, lettuces, spinach, bunching onions, and eggplant. I was lucky enough to source most of the seed from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, who had them in stock at the time.

I have perennial and annual flowers started in soil blocks as we end February in a flurry of garden prepping.

But of course, there are never enough seeds to start and plant.

From Annie’s Annuals (my first time ordering with this company):

Description Qty
Echeveria agavoides ‘Lipstick’ 2
Camissonia cheiranthifolia “Beach Primrose” 2
Aeonium ‘Jack Catlin’ 2
Lupinus regalis ‘Gallery Yellow’ “Lupine” 2
Lupinus regalis ‘Morello Cherry’ “Lupine” 2
Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Scarlet’ 2

From Botanical Interests:

Description Qty
Diablo Cosmos Seeds 4
Double Click Blend Cosmos Seeds 2
Fireball Blend Zinnia Seeds 4
Lemon & Tangerine Gems Signet Marigold Seeds 4
Miss Jekyll Blend Love-In-A-Mist Seeds – Conventional Heirloom 2
Sensation Blend Cosmos Seeds – Conventional Heirloom 2

I’m not the only one with a gardening bug. Seed companies and online plant purveyors have been hammered by the pandemic demand; most are advertising low inventories and out of stock items. My normal go-to vendors are struggling to keep up with the demand, I’m having a hard time filling out my wish list. Meanwhile, local nurseries are still recovering from the winter storm, so inventories might still be scarce as of this writing.

If I do find something I want, it’s usually through Amazon and I’m highly suspect of the quality. I’m still frustrated by the habanero pepper seeds I obtained through there; germination rates are very low, even after re-sow attempts as we are enter the 4th week since I planted them. I plan on moving them onto my growing stand with the powerful lights to see if that will spur them into germination.

More to come.

Wishlist: Grow Light Upgrade

Now that winter temperatures have finally arrived in North Texas, the plants that I intend to shelter indoors have settled into their new home in the garage and on my window sill.

I’ve had a combination of LED shop lights made by Lights of America and iPower red-white-blue LED tube with stand to start seeds and grow plants indoor.

On my potting bench, doubling as my seed starting rack, I also have a total of 4 heat mats, to keep my seedlings and starter plants cozy. I recently had to re-purchase an Inkbird temperature controller, and threw in a humidity controller.

Two-for-one deal at Amazon

I went ahead and also splurged on a 4ft 10-outlet power strip that I attached to the back of the potting bench, and some wifi-enabled Wyze smart plugs to which the lights are connected.

Sooo many mouths to feed

I’m debating if new-tech LED panels versus T5 fluorescents are the way to go for starting and sustaining plants indoors. In the cold conditions of a garage in winter, a fluorescent light fixture might emit enough warmth to keep temperatures tolerable for mature plants, but cook young seedlings. On the other hand, LEDs remain cool enough to be useful in seed starting and can emit full spectrum light, but tend to be higher in starting costs. Longevity and efficiency are also considerations, since fluorescent will use up more electricity and need bulb replacement more frequently.

I have a 77″ tall rolling wire rack ordered which I plan to outfit with lights and store the remainder of my potted plants in order to reclaim some floor space. But finding a grow light to suit the space, budget and light requirements is daunting. I’ve spent days scrolling through the internet reading articles and watching videos on the subject of grow lights; a search that often boils down to which camp you belong to: commercial horticultural operations or cannabis grower. Anything that caters to an indoor plant hobbyist or small scale/home gardener almost always tends to be of low or budget quality.

Can I get by with $15 Walmart lights? I have successfully germinated seeds with the existing light setup I have, but I’m wondering if I can start them faster, stronger, better? Stay tuned!

Growing Fenugreek

Fenugreek is an annual herb used for its seeds and leaves in Indian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes. I came across this herb in my attempts to perfect a butter chicken recipe. Its seeds are a base spice in garam masala, a complex spice blend used in curries and marinades.

Fenugreek has been used throughout antiquity as a spice and in medicine. It is so ubiquitous in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking, that the only thing I haven’t seen it used in is dessert.

In my kitchen I tend to add the dried leaves and toasted ground seeds to rubs and curries. However most kitchens will have difficulty accessing this spice unless they have a local Asian market that sells it. It’s not something you find readily at your local grocery store.

I learned of an easy way to produce my own fenugreek. Turns out fenugreek can be easily sprouted from fresh seeds sold in the spice trade.

I picked up a packet of seeds from Amazon in 2016, broadcasted the seeds in a pot, watered, and waited for the sprouts. The seeds remain viable for a long time as long they are stored in optimal condition.

I plan on using the sprouts as a garnish in salads. As soon as weather turns warmer, I may try to grow it in the garden and see how well it does in Texas summers. Hopefully I’ll be able to produce my own seeds to fill up my spice rack.

Catnip Confusion

Why does my catnip (nepeta cataria) smell like low-grade lemon balm? To add to my confusion, they look nearly alike.

I’ve discovered that the various catnip plants growing around my yard smell different.

For example, the potted plants I picked up at a nursery have a faint skunk-like odor, which intensifies when dried.

Store bought catnip smells faintly skunk-like

On the other hand, seed grown catnip have a faint minty-citrusy scent. I’ve observed that the minty scent intensifies in catnip grown in-ground versus container-grown catnip. Or maybe I’m just imagining it.

Catnip started in a grow bag

I had forgotten I had dumped some potting soil laced with catnip seed in my flower bed and the seedlings emerged between the perennials, well protected by its taller neighbors. Catnip is supposedly a mint relative, but I can’t attest to its invasiveness. I am waiting to see if this colony will survive the winter and spread during the warm seasons.

A side-by-side comparison displays how catnip can be easily confused for lemon balm: look for the fine hairs on catnip leaves and the golden hue on lemon balm leaves. Here’s an article enumerating the differences.

Regardless of the smell, my cats still react the same way to the skunk-odor catnip and the mint-scented catnip. Here’s Conan going after the mint-scented variety.

It’s not difficult for the cats to distinguish between catnip and lemon balm. The cats have a habit of destroying catnip plants whenever they are in reach, so identification is easy usually in the aftermath. As a result, I have elevated the potted catnip plants and take cuttings to hand out to the catkids.

A takeaway from all this is to label your seeds and cuttings!

Overwintering Peppers

I’m giving it another go this year. The candy cane peppers I purchased and planted out earlier this year failed to start from collected seed. They were great producers despite beneficial neglect, i.e. overshadowed by neighboring melons and tomato plants. So I dug them up and potted them in grow bags for storage in the garage over winter.

Candy Cane peppers pruned heavily and ready for overwintering
Last Candy Cane Pepper Harvest

I also got around to potting up some ornamental peppers that I started from seed early winter. They eked out a meager existence in 4″ starter pots all spring and summer-long until they moved into bigger digs, got a healthy shot of fertilizer, and sat outside during the hot days of fall. So now I’m faced with a surplus of pepper starts that I’ll also be overwintering.

We’ve been doing the nightly dance of shuffling pepper plants in and out of the house to take advantage of this mild fall weather. There’ve been a few nights when temperatures dipped below 40, but lately daytime temps have stayed relatively stable in the 70s.

It will only be a matter of weeks before winter chill comes on and our official frost date here in North Texas begins.