Taking My Time With Cold Seed Stratification

It’s that time of year again…indoor seed sowing time!!!

I’ve already sprouted and potted up brassicas, sown lettuce and pea seeds, and am getting ready to start on the nightshades, herbs, and annual flowers.

This year, in addition to all of the annual fruits and veggies that I’ll be starting from seed, I’m also going to try my hand at starting some perennial trees, shrubs, and berries indoors.  If I’m successful, I’ll save a ton of money on landscaping and will be able to supply my family and customers with even more healthy food and herbs from the garden.

I say “if” because these particular perennials that I’m starting are a little more difficult to get going than your typical annual seed.  They can’t just be planted straight out of the seed packet into a seed starting medium.  Instead, most of these seeds require a period of stratification before they are sown.  Seed stratification is the process whereby seed dormancy is broken in order to promote germination.  

There are  different types of stratification.   According to Gardening Know How.com, “Some seeds require a warm and moist treatment, while others require a cool and wet treatment. Even still, other seeds require a combination of both warm and cool treatments followed by a warm treatment, or a combination of warm and cool moist followed by a dry cycle and warm period to germinate.”

Does this sound confusing?  Intimidating?  (It used to scare me off, so I kept my distance from these plants for a long, long time).  

However, I’ve grown much more comfortable with the seed starting process over the years, so I figured why not take on the challenge of seed stratification this year?

I hopped on over to one of my favorite heirloom seed sources, Bountiful Gardens, and placed an order for some of their wild cultivars: Serviceberry, Hawthorne, Bearberry, Hardy Kiwi, Chaste Tree, Schizandra, and a few others.

When the package arrived, I found out that most of my seeds were going to require cold stratification, which is the type of stratification used for “plants or trees that require time in the ground over winter in order to germinate” (Gardening Know How).

It was a little overwhelming at first, making my way through all of the instructions included with the seeds, but after digesting it all, I found that the process, although a little time consuming, was relatively easy to complete.

Here’s what I ended up doing…

First, I picked up some plastic containers at the local Dollar Tree.  These little ones, that came in a package of four, fit the bill perfectly…

IMG_20150130_112747

Then, using cotton balls as my medium, I created a moist, but not wet, layer on the bottom of the container…

IMG_20150130_112832

IMG_20150130_112924

Next, I added the seeds…

IMG_20150130_112946

Then, I covered the seeds with more moist cotton balls…

IMG_20150130_113059

IMG_20150130_113113

Finally, using the information on the seed packet, I calculated the date when the seeds would finish their cold stratification period, wrote it on the seed packet instructions and calendar, taped the seed packet instructions to the container, and placed the container into the refrigerator to be left alone until the recorded date at which time they’ll be removed from the refrigerator and then sown, indoors, just as I sow my other annual seeds.

IMG_20150130_113252

IMG_20150130_113830_kindlephoto-73507716

Some of the seeds can take up to a year to germinate after sowing, so this project is going to take some patience, but as the words from one of my favorite Wes King songs, Slow Miracles, says,  “the best things in life take time”, don’t they?

Curious about which perennials require cold stratification?  (I was surprised to find some of the plants I grow on this list, like lavender and catmint – I’ve never used cold stratification on these seeds before, but now maybe I will).  Head on over to A Garden for the House for a nice list of garden perennials, and Wild Ones for some great information and a chart on native, wild plants, like the ones that I am growing.

Edibles With the Best Return on Your Investment

“All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial”, declares the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:23.  This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible because it helps me to stop and consider, more carefully, whether or not a decision I make is going to be profitable in my life.  For example, it is perfectly lawful for me to spend time on the internet, but (and I’m sure you would agree)  it would not be beneficial for me to spend all of my waking hours blogging, posting, pinning, emailing, reading, gaming, and tweeting on my computer.  I can eat chocolate to my heart’s content, without the slightest fear of my home being raided by police officers, but I wouldn’t get very far before my gall bladder violently arrested me for substance abuse — eating chocolate is definitely not beneficial for my health, as I’ve sadly come to learn.

Deciding how to spend one’s time and what to eat aren’t the only ways to apply this verse.  Another great way to use it is in planning this year’s garden.

Many gardeners dream about self-sufficiency, growing all of their own produce, and becoming less dependent on the local grocery store for their favorite fruits and vegetables.  What they may not realize, however, is that while it is completely lawful to plant any of the grocery store varieties that they are so familiar with, it may not be profitable, especially for those with small gardens.  For example, so many people tell me that they want to plant corn in their backyard gardens.  They love the taste of fresh corn on the cob, and can’t wait to get it growing.  “Well”, I say, “there really isn’t anything in the stores that compare to homegrown corn, but you have to grow a lot of it, if you’re going to get a good return on your investment.”  “It takes a lot of stalks to get good pollination rates, and high quality, open-pollinated, non-GMO, non-hybrid, non-treated seed only produces 1 – and if you’re lucky, 2 – ears of corn per stalk”, I tell them, and “Corn takes a lot of water, is a heavy feeder, takes a long time to grow, has a very small window of time for harvesting, and a short shelf life, too”.  With all of its negatives, I often wonder why I continue to grow it myself!  Corn is one of those crops that is completely permissible to grow but questionable as to its profitability.

The good news is that there are quite a few crops that not only are lawful, but beneficial to grow in your garden because they give you a great return on your investment.  

Here are some of my recommendations…

KALE

dinosaur kaleCHARD

rainbow chard

LOOSE-LEAF LETTUCE

green leaf lettuce

SPINACH

spinach, garlic border

PERENNIAL HERBS

HERBS

The value in these crops is that you can continually harvest off of them during the growing season.  Unlike corn, which produces 1-2 ears per stalk, and then you uproot and discard the plant, these plants allow you to harvest individual leaves or stems, and then leave the rest of the plant in the ground to continue growing and producing for you – some of them for the entire year, and some (like the herbs and chard) for years to come!

GARDEN PEAS

snow peasGREEN BEANS

beans and potatoesTOMATOES

loads of tomatoes

CUCUMBERS

cucumber tunnel

SUMMER SQUASH

cocozelle zucchini

WINTER SQUASH

winter squashes for baking

SWEET AND HOT PEPPERS

ancho pepperEGGPLANT

Ping Tung Eggplant

ICEBOX (2-3 lb) MELONS

charentais melon

The great thing about these plants is that they grow on bushes or vines and produce a lot of fruit per plant over a long period of time – a lot of bang for your buck!

TREE FRUIT

plums

GRAPES

GRAPES

BERRIES

raspberries

(ESPECIALLY WILD STRAWBERRIES)

ornamental strawberry

ARTICHOKES AND ASPARAGUS

green globe artichoke

These crops take a couple of years to start producing, but they have great staying power, and longevity of harvest.

GREEN ONIONS AND GARLIC

ONION

BEETS

beets-lettuce-cabbage-003.jpg

CARROTS

colorful carrots

These crops are profitable for the gardener because they don’t take up very much space, and you get a lot of seed for a small investment.

So, as you plan out this year’s garden, look over your seed catalogs, where all vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers are permissible and ask yourself, as you make your selections, “Will this be beneficial?”  If the answer is, “yes”, then freely proceed.  If the answer is, “No” or “I don’t know”, then either move along, or find a reason why it would be beneficial or profitable to you.  Financial gain is not the only measure of profitability, after all. 🙂

What fruits, vegetables, herbs, or flowers would you add to this list?  Is there a plant that you love to grow even though you get very little return on your investment from it?  Which plant gives you the greatest return on your investment?