These are Maximillian Sunflower seedlings, raised from seeds given to me by Pam Johnson!

Part 4
Seeds, Bulbs & Planting Time
What kind of plants would I put in my garden? I had some seeds from last year and some from years ago that I wasn't sure about, but I certainly didn't have any trouble getting more than enough seeds to sow! And what about summer bulbs?! Shopping is so much fun!

Poppy Seed Madness!
Last summer the mixure of poppy seeds I scattered in my front garden exploded into bloom with dozens of beautiful flowers. I had fallen madly in love with these flowers and discovered that there are over 400 species that grow all over the world. I wanted more, more, more! While wandering around the internet, drooling at poppies, I came to the website of seedman.com, and found an incredible deal offered there. For about $17.00, I could get a huge assortment of one million poppy seeds! (The offer is now $25.00, but still a steal.) I thought to myself, "That's just crazy! Who in their right mind would need a million poppy seeds?! But for $17.00, I'd have enough seeds to last a lifetime...many, many lifetimes...hmmm...that's too many poppy seeds. But...what if I found someone to buy them with me?!" So I tossed the idea at a friend of mine, Pam Johnson, and she was interested! I ordered the seeds, and when they arrived, I split them in half and mailed Pam's seeds to her. We were amazed at the quantity, and excited for springtime to roll around when we planned to sow them.

Sharing Seeds With Friends
Pam Johnson and I became fast friends when we met on ipernity, and I have always enjoyed her photography. One day I mentioned how beautiful her flowers were, and she wrote to say that if I was interested, she'd send me seeds when they were ready! How cool is that?! I told her I had some seeds to trade, so in addition to the poppy seed offer that we shared, we also sent one another a variety of seeds to try. What fun! :)

Shopping for Seeds on Ebay: Great Deals but Buyer Beware
Buying anything on Ebay has its share of risks. When it comes to buying seeds, the probability of getting old, dead seeds seems like a high possibility. However, I simply couldn't resist all of the wonderful deals available, so I went crazy and purchased bunches of different species. All of the seeds arrived in a timely manner, but time will tell in regards to germination and whether or not the seeds are for the flowers I ordered. I am keeping careful notes as my project goes along.

What Types of Plants to Pick: Annuals, Biennials or Perennials?
Annuals are such fun because you can play with different kinds of flowers to see what you like. I have really enjoyed the poppy and wildflower annuals that have grown so easily for me, and those kinds of seeds were very high on my list when I was shopping.

Biennials are just weird. They grow the first year but usually don't flower, but the second year they bloom like crazy, drop seed, and then die like an annual. That always confused me and I was not interested in that kind of flower. But a funny thing happened. Steve brought home some Sweet William seeds last year, and when I found out they were biennials, I thought I'd just toss some in the metal trough planter and a few in the front garden—I didn't think anything would grow anyway, so what was the harm in experimenting to see if anything happened?

Something happened. A LOT happened! This spring, some really weird, fuzzy-Tribble-topped green things started growing up out of each garden. The metal trough was full of an army of them. I had no idea what they could be, so I just waited. One day I noticed a bud forming and I could see that there would be a head full of buds blossoming. Oh, neato! A few days later, the first blossom opened...and I discovered that it was a Sweet William flower!! I was stunned by its beauty. And then it hit me...I'm going to have dozens upon dozens of these flowers!!! And that's just what happened. Every color from white to purple and multi-colored versions too, these flowers have taken my heart with their magical beauty! The bottom line: biennials are worth waiting for!!!! I picked several other biennials for my new garden.

Perennials are not a friend to instant gratification junkies like me. What's that? No flowers the first year? Maybe not for several years? Are you kidding? Why bother? However, last year my friend gave me a Green-Eyed Rudbeckia and it's a special perennial which is known for blooming the first year. It did bloom—like crazyand this year it came back and is growing from the place I planted it last year. How cool is that?! These kinds of plants come back bigger and stronger every year, although they do have a lifetime and will die eventually, but once established, perennials are wonderful plants to have in your garden. Some of the most beautiful flowers out there are perennials, including many favorites of mine: hybrid Echinacea, Oriental and Meconopsis Poppies, and Milkweed, to name a few. I picked a bunch of these to try.

Summer Bulbs
I am a huge fan of summer bulbs, but we have not had much luck with them. A couple of years ago, I got a great deal on a close-out sale, and Steve and I spent hours planting 200+ bulbs around the Oak tree in our large meadow and then watered them carefully. After all that work, exactly one flower bloomed that year, and one flower this year. Though discouraging, I learned that flower bulbs should be planted in a garden for the best chance of success. To coincide with my seed planting, I ordered a variety of bulbs as accents: gladiolus, anemone, fresia and ixia flowers.

Starting Seeds Indoors: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
When March rolled around, I laid out a wet paper towel on a plate and placed a bunch of Pam's and my seeds in several labeled sections.
I was quickly rewarded with sprouting Maximillian Sunflower seeds and as they began to pop, I planted them into a seed tray, seated under a florescent light. Some of her "False Sunnies" popped, and a few of my Green-Eyed Rudbeckia popped too.

I had some seeds from the previous year and did the same thing, and when my ordered seeds began to arrive, I also set them up on their own paper towels. I began to notice that some types of seeds wouldn't germinate. I tried different methods and sometimes I was successful, other times not.

Time passed and soon the sunflower seeds had sprouted leaves and were doing very well. I had them in dome-topped trays and when they were big enough, I took the tops off and they grew larger still. The other popped seeds I put into trays were popping up too, though some did not.

One day I noticed a couple of tiny little flies fluttering around. I didn't pay attention. A few days later, there were a bunch of them and I recognized them as gnats. Annoying little things, I could see them crawling on my seedling trays and fluttering their wings, which I recognized was a method to attract mates. That didn't seem like a good thing so I mashed them if I could. I didn't have any idea there was a problem brewing, I thought they were just a benign bother.

I was really happy with the success of my seedlings. Though many seeds didn't germinate, a lot of others did, and they were popping out of the soil at a great rate and I was looking forward to the first of May, when I could put them into the ground.

A couple of days passed happily and I came in one morning to check on the seedlings. To my horror, most of them were dead or in the process of dying. I couldn't understand it. The soil wasn't soggy and it wasn't dry. What did I do wrong? I could see that some of them were victims of "damping off disease", but there seemed to be a lot more going on here.

I was checking one of my paper towels of seeds for germination when I saw a tiny larva crawling around.
I cried out, "EWWWW, WHAT IS THAT?!!", and peered closer. I am blessed with "micro-vision" and can see extremely small things clearly, so I was able to watch the tiny larva inch around, appearing like an extremely small caterpillar. It didn't take much brain power to realize that this little larva would turn into a gnat. I wondered if they had something to do with the reason my seedlings were dying.

Hopping on the internet, I immediately found out that I had a kind of fly called a fungus gnat, and the larvae's preferred food are the roots of plants. Fungus gnats breed on moist soil (and in my case, wet paper towels), and the hatched larvae feed on roots growing in the moist soil, quickly killing or badly damaging the plants.

I was horrified and upset, and discovered that there are various insecticides directed at killing these gnats. I also found out that sprinkling cinnimon on the dirt kills the fungus that gnats eat, and in the process, kills the gnats. It worked quite well, but not fast enough to save my seedlings. I had three trays of thriving seedlings at one point, but in the end I
had just a bit more than one tray. A shame. Very discouraging, but live and learn, right?

Planting Day Delayed
I had originally planned to plant my seeds and seedlings on the weekend of May 1st, which is the official "last day of frost" where I live. However, I assumed that we'd find deer fencing at one of our local stores, which didn't happen. I ordered the fencing online and it arrived the following Thursday. That week I prepared the soil, so it was actually ok to have that delay. With errands to do on Saturday, we ended up putting the fencing up on Sunday, so my planting day was Monday, May 12. I think it was kind of a blessing that I had to wait because a cold front rolled through during the week and there were two frosty mornings. The bulbs I ordered came that week, and some seeds orders arrived as well. Finally, the extra time meant I didn't have to stress out about getting too many things done all at once.

Labeling the Planting Sections
I got some plant tags and wrote the names of all the different flowers I would be planting and then went out and figured out where they would all go. I realized that the Maximillian Sunflowers were going to take up a lot of space so I allowed three sections for them. I figured out where the bulbs would go, and laid tags on the dirt where I'd be planting them.

Planting the Bulbs
The first things I would plant in my garden would be the bulbs because I didn't want to disturb the seeds once they were sowed. After we finished putting up the fencing on Sunday, I planted the bulbs. It didn't take long to do since I'd labeled where they would go, and it was just a matter of making my way around the garden and plugging them in. How exciting, my garden had its first occupants!

Seed Planting Day Arrives
After all the weeks of preparation, it was time to begin populating my garden with seeds! I woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and soon had my seedling trays out in the garden. I spent the day gently putting all of the seedlings in their places and then going around and planting all the seeds. When I was done, I enacted a plan I'd thought about since I got my huge order of poppy seeds. I went around the entire bed and I sprinkled poppy seeds. I did this for two reasons: the first is that I love poppies and would be happy to have the entire garden full of them, and the second is that if I find that some or many of the seeds I bought on ebay are dead, I'll still have poppies filling the space! I used a flat cement trowel to press the soil down over the entire bed. (By the way, I used only a fraction of the poppy seeds...there are just so many!!)

These are "False Sunnies", raised from seeds given to me by Pam Johnson!

Next: What Did I Plant?