Dear Miss Floribunda,
It’s me again. I’m “Seeks to Succeed with Seeds” who wrote to you last month. I did go to the Hyattsville Horticultural Society seed sale, had a great lunch, and bought seeds of quite a few kinds. I spoke with some very nice people who promised a seed-starting workshop in March with tricks of the trade and demonstrations of innovative equipment. Can you give me a sneak preview? For example, what equipment will be demonstrated? Do I need to bring anything? Will there be handouts to take home? Anything else?
Now Seeking Seed Know-How on Kennedy Street
Dear Now Seeking Seed Know-How,
Yes, there will be a workshop on March 21 by Dr. Julie Wolf at her home at 4008 Hamilton Street. The workshop will take place after a brief meeting of the Hyattsville Horticultural Society (HHS) at 10 a.m. There will be coffee and light refreshments. Dr. Wolf can give you many tips that will be very helpful to you, though I wouldn’t exactly call them tricks of the trade. She is a plant physiologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Beltsville and a hands-on gardener whose own luxuriant home garden is proof of her expertise. She will provide information about timing, temperature, lighting, sanitation and other things to consider when planting seeds indoors, as well as advice about when and how to plant seeds outdoors. She will address all the common pitfalls and be happy to respond to specific questions and concerns. You could bring a pencil and paper to take notes, but even if you forget, Dr. Wolf will have printed information available for you to take home.
During the workshop, Dr. Wolf will demonstrate how to use a heating mat. Many seeds delay growth or don’t germinate at all because the soil isn’t warm enough. She will advise you on how to water and how to ensure that your potting medium is sterile so that your seedlings don’t suffer damping off and die. You will find out how to set up your own shelving and grow-light system, essential in making sure your seedlings thrive indoors till the soil is warm enough to plant them outside. You will see many kinds of containers that can be used to start seedlings: commercial biodegradable, commercial plastic, recycled/reused plastic and an ingenious new type of deep-rooting container with hinges. In addition, Dr. Wolf will teach you how to use soil blockers for starting seeds without any containers at all!
You will learn about different types of commercial potting soils and seedling grow mixes and their comparative merits. Dr. Wolf will teach those having seeds that can only be successfully sown outdoors which seeders to use, what times are appropriate, which locations are optimal, and which techniques are best to ensure that seeds are planted at the correct density and depth. Dr. Wolf will particularly emphasize the special requirements of seeds for native plants, which can be difficult to germinate, but because they provide food and shelter for birds and pollinating insects are well worth the extra trouble. If you have seeds that are very hard and need scarification, you can bring them to the workshop and have them notched safely by experts.
Your enthusiasm may burgeon at this workshop, and you may want more seeds! The HHS will be having a second seed sale at the Community Forklift 11th Annual Garden Party on Saturday, April 4. Community Forklift is located at 4671 Tanglewood Drive in nearby Edmonston. If you find yourself altogether too successful and swamped with more seedlings that you need, don’t worry. There will be a plant and seedling swap on Saturday, April 18 at a location to be given in next month’s column. We would love to see you there as well as at the March workshop.