Since I had a ten day Florida vacation planned, I thought I’d try and germinate my tropical milkweed seeds while I was gone.
The trick is to keep the seeds moist and warm during that time and make sure they don’t dry out. I not only watered the seed bed well, but I also covered it with a plastic well-fitting top. I put the shop lights right above the plastic lid. I then left on vacation and after ten days, this is what I came home to.
I came home to hundreds of seedlings and look forward to transplanting them into other containers.
If your kids are home and you’re looking for an activity to not only keep them busy, but also learn about plants and nature – start your own seeds.
You can buy seeds for as little as $1.00/packet from DollarSeed.com or also find deals on Amazon.
If you prefer not to go to the store to get supplies, you can buy them from Amazon or just use with what you have around the house. I have used old yogurt containers for seeds, just punch in holes in the bottom for drainage. You may need some slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote, depending on the type of soil you have.
If it’s warm enough in your area of the country, you may be able to plant directly into the soil. In St. Louis, I usually wait until May 1st to plant.
March in St. Louis is a good time to start to cleanup your gardens. It’s warm enough to work outside and most of the plants are just starting to bud out.
The first thing to do is bring your arsenal of weapons. I use lopers, hand pruners, lawn trimmer, rake, a leaf blower, hedge trimmer and even a sawzall for larger branches. Make sure you sharpen your tools before using them. I use twine to bind the larger pieces and paper recycling bags for the small stuff.
Hopefully, you will know the difference between your annuals and perennials. In general, I prefer to cut both groups off near the base and leave the roots in the soil to decay. For shallow rooted annuals, it may be easier to just pull them out of the ground.
Clean from the outside in. You want to stay off the soil as much as possible so that you don’t trample plants and compact the soil.
I cut off most plants as close to the soil as possible.
You may notice that I use concrete blocks to define my garden. I find that it has a few advantages. It helps to define the garden and slows down the bermuda grass invasion. It also catches seeds and provides a lot of new plants in the spring.
Some plants require a bit more finesse. Each plant is a bit different and you will need to know its growing habit.
Buddleia – I cut to 9″ above the ground
Hydrangea paniculata – just trim off 6″ of the top growth. I am going for a eight foot hedge.
Roses (Knock Out) – I cut back to 18″
Trees – yes I even cut back one tree, hackberry, to a six foot height.
Viburnum – cut back to keep its size in check.
I do add a layer of compost/mulch after everything is cleaned up. It not only makes things look good, but also feeds the soil. I don’t use any fertilizer. In St. Louis I like the Black Forest mulch which is fine aged mulch mixed with compost.