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resist the urge to sow them all

Going on my successful wildflower seed planting last fall, I’ve decided to try my hand at other flower seeds… and vegetables, and herb seeds. In fact, I have so many seeds I’m embarrassed to admit how much of my refrigerator they are starting to fill up. (I bought this cool tupperware-like seed storage bin at Kew Gardens in London last spring; it was made for beginner seed-collectors and includes stuff for drying seeds.)

I’m sure all beginners (and experts) go crazy with seeds. I mean, how can you not stop at the seed rack and think, ‘ooh I should try that variety’ especially with the cool illustrations and sometimes lavish descriptions of the seed inside. My first big mistake started last spring when so many purple coneflowers germinated that I pulled most of them out and transplanted them into small plastic containers, in order to give room for the bigger plants to grow. The idea was to save as many as possible–maybe give some away, maybe move others to another bed.

I’m discovering I have this same ‘save it all’ energy when it comes to sprouting seeds in my house. This is my first fall growing seeds indoors. I’ve already started several flats and am using up all the available light. The problem is, out of my five flats, three are taken up by just one flower. I sowed the whole packet and now I’m scrambling around trying to delicately move each sprout into its own container. Now where am I going to put all these seedlings!

I bet I’m not the only one who doesn’t have the ruthless heart to sacrifice any of these precious seedlings. I want to conserve every piece of success I have, but despite myself all the advice says to kill off the weak ones, thin out and throw away, so that plants don’t compete for space.

Either way, anyone who is willing to bother to raise plants from seed (and harvest seeds as well) already has a conserving heart so I figure that I have to conserve elsewhere. Note to self: don’t sow the whole packet in one shot. Save the seeds instead. Most seeds save for awhile, at least a year.

So what are these little seedlings?

“Dwarf Ten Week” Stock (Matthiola incarna) take up the three flats. I don’t know if I’m sowing them at the right time of year, but I’ve discovered that planting many early-spring flowering plants in fall gives them a good start and healthy growth in spring here in Austin. Even with wildflowers, my best bluebonnets and poppies were already fairly good-size plants in October. They stood still in our short winter and then took off as soon as things warmed. Bluebonnets that germinated in spring, still grew and bloomed but late and only for a short period.

The other flats include varieties of Dianthus, my latest obsession. All of them are fragrant varieties–Sweet William, Cottage Pinks, and China Pinks. I’ll save ranting about my new romance with Dianthus for another day.