Is it too late to spring sow in the Front Range?

Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)March 11, 2014

I never have enough space to start all the seeds I want to start indoors. Is it too late to spring sow flowers? Or at this point would you just direct sow? I tried winter sowing last year and while I had about a 25% success rate for seedlings to appear, they didn't survive after that... Once I saw leaves, I took the cup out of the plastic box and kept it in the sun. But, they all eventually died before they got big enough to plant. I didn't fertilize though.

globe amaranth
zulu daisy
love lies bleeding
verbena bonariensis

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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Lesuko,

You should be able to start all the annuals now, either inside or in small pots outside. Outside, if it stays cold out they shouldn't come up until the soil is warming enough for them to germinate, and as late as it is, by the time they do come up it should be warm enough for them outside--or you could just move them in overnite if we should get some kind of a Freezing Catastrophe like we did last year. Inside, they'd germinate faster, but you'll need to keep them in really good lite/direct sun or they'll get leggy pretty easily. If you have them in a flat or box you could move them out into the sun during the day and back inside over nite. But if you start them inside and they've been grown inside for a while, be sure to acclimate them to the sun gradually or you could burn the leaves! Wouldn't likely kill them, but would make them look really bad for a while and would take them a while to "grow out of it!" Having said all that, I'm not really too up close and personal with annuals, so maybe other folks will have other advice for individual things! (What is your "drumstick?" I have a "drumstick" Primula, but I'd be VERY surprised if you have seed for that!)

Rudbeckia can be a perennial or only half hardy, but either kind could be started outside, no problem, unless it gets COLD after they germinate. Or inside!

Hollyhocks, a perennial, outside no problem (same as Rudbeckia) or easy to start inside.

Scabiosa, if you mean the perennial one, same as the above two. Since you're calling it Scabiosa, I'm assuming you have the perennial, but I've heard of other things called pincushion flower, don't know if they're some other kind of Scabiosa or not!

Lavender--I don't think you'll have any trouble starting it "warm," but if it doesn't work stratify some seed for three or four weeks in the fridge or freezer first, folded in a damp paper towel in a zipper baggie, and then plant them. Lavender is one I'd usually recommend winter sowing for the natural stratification, but it may be fine without it--just not sure!

With the winter sowing you tried, there's a VERY good chance your problem was over or under watering. Very likely too much water. I tend to overwater things when I'm hovering over them too, and I know better! (And don't even try to tell me you weren't hovering! ;-) ) After things germinate you need to start leaving the soil dry deeper and deeper into the pot before you water again. Once they germinate you shouldn't water until at least the surface is dry, even to start with. Just bite your tongue and do it! Even if they wilt a little bit! That won't hurt them, as long as they don't lay down "all the way." But too much water is fatal, and by the time you can see there's a problem it's probably too late. Do all that with the watering with the things you're starting now too, whether you start them inside or out. Watch them and water, at first, when the soil is dry about halfway down in the pot. As they get bigger you can let it get even dryer. Besides not killing them that also helps develop a good root system as the roots grow deeper into the pot "looking" for water.

I doubt that fertilizer had anything to do with it (outside either, saw you're post on the Who's Here thread)! And some things, like the seriously xeric things, don't like to be fertilized and do better if you just leave them alone to do their own thing!

If you have questions when things start to germinate--now or on your next winter sowing adventure--come back and ask about individual plants for more specific recommendations.

Gotta go,

P.S. From what you posted on the Who's Here thread! I suspect I'm the one who told you to Eyeball your plants and then plant them there! Wanna see some pics when things get going for you!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 9:39PM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Hi Skybird-

Yes, it was you who said to eyeball the plants and just plant them. A reason you gave is because I will continually be moving things around in the garden. I have high hopes that it will be nice- though hopefully bloom times will match were planned.

For fertilizing, neither my daylilies or iris bloomed last year and both were planted the previous fall. Plenty of green leaves, but no flowers. I have mostly xeric but also have others that I had to have or have to get :)

Thanks for replying to my WS question. It's great to know that I can start the seeds outside (and bring them in at night if it gets too cold after they've sprouted). The lavender, rudbeckia and hollyhocks I got from you at a swap. The scabiosa is a perennial I thought I wanted but now I want cosmos and anemones- these plants are gorgeous.

I probably did over water. I was excited when the seeds sprouted and wanted to make sure they survived by smothering them to death. Is this like helicopter gardening or just amateur gardening?

Oh, the drumsticks I have are just called billy buttons - yellow perennials.

Thanks for your advice!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 2:52PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

LOL! Probably a little bit of both, Amateur and Helicopter gardening! But since I still have to virtually tie my hands behind my back to keep from overwatering seedlings, I suspect more Helicopter!! :-D When you're anxious to see things growing in spring, it's REALLY hard not to hover over them and Love Them To Death! When you look at your seedlings and really, really, really want to water them, take three DEEP breaths and repeat ten times: Not Yet! Then remember something else you need to get done--and walk away! If you go back often enough to "look at them," and take three more DEEP breaths, eventually you'll pass out--and your plants will be safe!!! And when something does die, well, you can always try again!

I don't remember right now if the daylilies need a certain planting depth, but German Iris very definitely do! Your Iris should be planted so the rhizomes (thick roots) are just barely visible on the top of the soil. If they're buried too deeply they will probably never bloom for you. So I'd check them out, and if you can't see the tops of the rhizomes, dig them up and replant them. (Mine are planted with the rhizomes visible on top of the soil, but they are then covered with a pretty thin layer of small bark mulch, so the mulch doesn't seem to interfere with them blooming, but too deep in the soil will.) I don't think the depth makes much difference with daylilies (did you plant them the same depth they were in the pots?), so I'd just give them another year to settle into their new digs and see what happens this summer. (Fertilizer might help with some things, but with the kinds of things you've mentioned so far, it's not the answer. I almost never fertilize my perennials, unless they're getting really yellow, which is usually chlorosis and isn't gonna be fixed by any "run-of-the-mill" fertilizer anyway--but it's just that Gotta Do Something Syndrome that makes me do it! Some of mine are in improved soil now, but some are still in the original nasty heavy clay, and most of them do just fine without adding fertilizer. In my opinion, adding organic matter to help improve the soil and increase earthworm activity will help as much as, if not more than, adding commercial fertilizer--in many/most cases.)

With the hardy perennials, if you start them outside don't move them in overnite unless it's getting down into the low teens or lower, and even then they can stay outside if you have a "protected" place, like on a deck or porch against a wall, or maybe covered with a sheet. If you do move them in (to a cold garage or something) overnite, be sure to move them right back outside so they don't get acclimated to the warmth. If it's the more tender annuals, maybe move them in if it's in the teens, but, again, RIGHT back out when it gets above that again. Starting outside they're already hardened off for you, but if they lose that you have to do it all over again. Unless it gets into the single digits you can protect even the annuals outside in a protected place, with a couple thicknesses of fabric--or stick a cardboard box over them if you're gonna stay awake worrying!

Personally, I think it's a good idea to skip the Scabiosa! I really love them, but I've never been able to successfully grow them without them getting really bad mildew! I've tried new plants, both colors, three or four times, because I really do love them, but it just doesn't work for me. So you might have just saved yourself some gardening heartbreak!

Still don't know what your drumstick is! Never heard of a perennial called billy buttons! That's the problems with common names. If you ever find out what the botanical name is, I'd be interested to know it!

Happy, happy (almost) spring,

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 4:14PM
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Lesuko(5, Boulder CO)

Bummer- the iris (purple bearded) are too deep. Not to mention I have a think layer of mulch on top- about 2". So, should I dig them up now? Will I be able to get any blooms if I do dig them up now? How close together can I plant them? They are all bunched together as I was going for a dense look because I only have about 10. I've been looking at brown mulch for 2 years so I'm eager for some color!

The daylilies' leaves are yellow. I wouldn't say very yellow but yellow-ish. Maybe I'll put a little earthworm castings or compost around them to see if that will perk them up.

Didn't get to plant my seeds in pots outside on Sunday. Our faucet must have frozen over the winter as we discovered a leak through the wall. That was almost our whole weekend. Fun stuff, right.

Would you have any tips on phlox or dahlias? I really want to add them to my garden. Phlox because they attract butterflies and bees, and dahlias because the colors are amazing. I'll probably post this as a separate Q though.

I'm going to throw some sweet peas, cosmos, verbena and globe amaranth in the ground today to see if they will sprout. I figure if the packets say the are good self seeders then they should know when to come up. I did the same with poppies a few weeks ago. I'm hoping to get some really interesting varieties as I got these seeds from a guy who is passionate about poppies. I'll collect the seeds for the swap if they do flower.

The drumsticks are Craspedia Globoso and I just realized they are annuals. Oh well, I still like them. I do want to add some flowers for cutting purposes.

Thanks again!

Here is a link that might be useful: drumstick

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:52AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Lesuko,

If it were me I think I would go ahead and dig and replant them now in hopes of maybe getting at least a few flowers this year yet. I don't know when the flowers "form" for the following year with Iris, so I don't know if it'll work or not, but if they really are buried very deep, and then have mulch on top of that, you probably won't get any flowers anyway.

Spacing-wise, I recommend planting the rhizomes AT LEAST 4" apart. German Iris spread a lot, and in a couple years the rhizomes will be all bunched together, and, I don't know this yet from personal experience, but it's my understanding that when they get too jammed together the flowers decline and then need to be dug, divided, and replanted further apart again. So planting them a little further apart now will keep you from needing to dig and replant them again for longer.

With the yellow daylily leaves, nothing to worry about for now at least! Many things are still dormant or just starting to break dormancy, and (unless you're talking about NEW leaves that are starting to grow that are yellow already) the old leaves that have been out there all winter are gonna look awful and keep looking awful until you cut them off. Even new growth can look "abnormal" at this time of the year, so if it is the new leaves looking a little peaked, give them a month to start growing for real and then see if there appears to be a "real" problem. Having said that, adding something natural like earthworm castings or compost is a good idea pretty much anytime! But if you're considering using a commercial fertilizer, don't do it--yet! Fertilizing this early will get many plants growing "too fast" for this early, and new growth is far more likely to be damaged if (when!!!) we get a late freeze. So if you do decide to use commercial fertilizer outside, wait at least a month to do it.

"I'm gonna throw some seeds in the ground...."
I very much recommend "throwing" your seeds in some small pots rather than directly out on the ground! Couple reasons! It's much, muchmuchmuch, easier to keep the surface of the soil moist to get the to germinate. And, when "things" start to come up, you don't need to keep trying to figure out if it's a weed you're looking at, or the plant you seeded there. If you start the seeds in small pots and wait for the roots to get to the bottom of the pots, it's pretty quick and easy to dig a small hole and transplant them into the soil, and then you know for sure it's the plant you want growing there.

I never heard of your Craspedia, but then I'm not really into annuals at all, so that doesn't surprise me! If they grow for you post a pic of them later in summer!

On Phlox and Dahlias! I would definitely start separate threads for those two so more people see your questions and will have a chance to reply.

I'd say Digit is your go-to guy for Dahlias, and I'm sure he'll see it and reply when you post it!

I may be able to answer questions about phlox, BUT, there are LOTS of different kinds of phlox, so I'd need to know what kind you're asking about. If it's a perennial, creeping phlox, tall garden phlox, or one of a couple other kinds, I might be able to help, but if it's an annual phlox I probably can't! Find the botanical name for what you're wondering about and start a separate thread.

Fingers crossed for flowers on your iris this spring,

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:39PM
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vegpatch(5 Colo)

What is spring sowing?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 10:02PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi VegPatch,

Maybe Lesuko will be along to contradict this, but I took "spring sowing" to be the same as winter sowing--but doing it too late to call it that!


    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 11:31PM
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