Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How to Save LOTS of Money and Bring a Little Summer to Your Winter!

This is your two minute warning, or actually, your four month warning.

It’s time to start the petunias!

Okay, maybe you're not concerned. Maybe, like I’ve been told by at least one reader, you skip the garden posts on this blog. Fine. I take no offense. Really. I’ll just pick up my trusty trowel and slink away.

But for the rest of you – aren’t you itching for a little summer? Or more importantly, do you spend much too much money on annuals each summer? Have you ever purchased happy little seed packets of annual flowers, only to be disappointed when all they produce is leaves and die before a proper bloom can happen?

We are such suckers for a pretty picture. I gave up on the seeds years ago and started buying flats of annuals instead. It ate at me, though, because they cost a fortune and I am nothing if not a skin-flint. Yet I could never resist, especially the wave petunias.

Petunias are happy flowers, and better yet, they’re resilient. The perfect flower for the easily distracted gardener. They can look nearly dead one day, but a little splash of water and they offer a dozen more trumpet-blooms within hours.

They’re worth the price tag, right? Maybe. But what if you didn’t have to pay it? What if you could grow wave petunias from seeds? Instead of paying $5-8 for one wave petunia, what if you could pay $1.75 for eight? You can. But you need to get started.

 There’s really only one trick to growing your own gorgeous wave petunias from inexpensive seeds, like mine….

Start early. You need to get those tiny little seeds in the ground and then you need to be patient.

Head to the hardware store (or your basement) and grab some seed starter, small pots, and a fluorescent light with a timer (nothing fancy, just what you find at the hardware store).

Of course you’ll also need seeds. I purchased my seeds through Pinetree Seeds and was very happy with the results last year – no duds.

Petunia seeds are teeny, tiny, so put on your reading glasses before you work with them. And then -

1. Fill your pots with half potting soil, ¼ peat moss, and ¼ vermiculate (or perlite).

2. Wet the soil thoroughly.

3. Place one seed on the surface in the center of each pot and give it a few mists of water.

4. Petunias need light to germinate. So set your pots under your lights and set the timer to provide 16 hours of sunlight.

5. Keep the soil moist. You’ll want to use a mister so you don’t inadvertently wash away the bitty-little seeds or crush the fragile plants. If possible, water from the bottom also. I set my pots in shallow plastic bins so I can keep the soil moist by watering from the bottom which will encourage roots to dig deep.

6. Here’s the most important step -BE PATIENT. Petunias are slow. Heartbreakingly slow.
Here are mine at ten days. Looks like nothing, right?

Well, look a little closer, four of them have actually put out a tiny leaf or two.

Here they are at two weeks. Still some empty pots, but they’ll be along shortly. I’m confident.

Growth is painstakingly slow, but it is so very much worth it. Sure, you’re saving a few bucks, but more than that, these are your creations. Just when you think all is lost, the tiny fleck of green will appear.
Can you see it?
How about this one?

Growing annual flowers from seed will make winter easier to stomach and bring spring early to your soul. That alone, makes it worth it for me.

You can start nearly any annual this way. I’ve grown impatiens and calendula, but Petunias are my favorites, so this year I’ve decided to stick with the ones that give me the most bang for my buck. I’ve got forty petunias going under my lights – 3 wave variety, and 2 bush variety.

There’s still room for the veggies that are up next – but wait – don’t start those tomatoes or peppers yet! It’s too soon. For now, keep your dreaming to the flowers.

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