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Cosmos seeds. Photo: <a href="">Sean Lamb</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Cosmos seeds. Photo: Sean Lamb, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Still time for seeds

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Warm, moist weather over the last few days brought on a rush of transplanting, staking and mulching in many North Country gardens. It's been an up-and-down spring, with recurring cold weather (and more to come tonight and tomorrow night!) that threatened warmth-loving pants like tomatoes and peppers.

But in the rush, don't forget that little stash of seeds bought with the hope of having time along the way to try something new, or fill out the flower garden. Cooperative Extension horticulturist Amy Ivy tells Martha Foley there's still time to grow from seed. In fact, it's an ideal time for some popular flowers: sunflowers, maybe. Or a late planting of cosmos. More on what to plant, and how, in their weekly conversation.

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Reported by

Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

Summary of this week's gardening conversation with horticulturist Amy Ivy:

Although the weather is looking dismal these next few nights, Amy Ivy gives us some tips on how to best survive the fluctuating weather and help our plants grow. We may have two inches of rain overnight, and may have to replant seeds that wash away. But it’s not too late to plant seeds this season.

This may be the time to plant those seed packets that you’ve either forgotten about or have simply never gotten around to planting. Ivy says, “It all depends on which ones they are. It’s not too late for a lot of them.”

She prefers to plant some varieties of flowers late anyways, such as sunflowers and cosmos. By the end of August and September, these flowers remain more vigorous than flowers planted earlier in the season. They will continue to thrive through early fall, depending on the frost situation. However, there are varieties which it’s just too late to start from seed now, such as pansies, petunias, and salvia.

Most seeds need to be buried. Often, bigger seeds must be planted deeper than smaller seeds. And smaller seeded plants need more sunlight in order to grow.

While flowers frequently come back from seeds produced the season before, everyone has different soil types and different situations, and that will affect which varieties will self-seed. Ivy says, “It’s fun to see which ones will come back.” Colengula and nicotiana, or flowering tobacco, often flourishes for her.

Many gardeners find it difficult to thin out an overabundance of seedlings. Ivy said, “It’s so hard to make yourself thin, so that you really look at a nice-sized plant. There’s just something psychological about it that’s hard, I think, for the average gardener to do. But it’s so important to do it.”

Another difficulty for gardeners is keeping track of the seeds. Ivy suggests that for crops with small seeds like lettuce and carrots, gardeners should plant in wide rows. It works best if you plant a row in three "mini" distinct rows, spaced three inches apart. This really helps when gardeners go to weed, because the weeds will often sprout first. She said, “That way, at least you know everything between those two rows is a weed, so without thinking you can get rid of everything, and then in the row you can be careful to be weeding out the weeds until the carrots come up.” Carrot and lettuce seeds are sold in pelleted forms through mail order. The seed is much bigger, which makes it easier for gardeners to plant. Also, this may help gardeners to not plant the lettuce and carrot seeds too close together.

Commercial seed packets normally provide great planting information for gardeners. If the packet does not have all the information, Ivy suggests that gardeners visit the catalog.

Watering is essential for seedlings to grow. however, plants cannot grow when deluged in water. Although May has been tough this year, plants should only need a sprinkling of water to keep the plant moist. And just sprinkle water on the surface until the seeds have sprouted.

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