Work smarter, not harder. Such a simple concept but often we do things in the most difficult way possible without thinking there might be another way. The answer might be so easy you just need to see it from another perspective. Work smarter, not harder. Such a simple concept but often we do things in the most difficult way possible without thinking there might be another way. The answer might be so easy you just need to see it from another perspective. 

At the September Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina there will be a session called Farm Hacks. It will be a chance for us to show off and share our super simple and super smart ideas with others.  I asked some of the Canadian members to share some of their seed storing and seeding tips.

Here are some to share and I will add a few of my own.
• Organize your seeds by type and store in labeled Ziploc bags. They are easy to grab and go. The bag keeps random seeds in the bag instead of falling out. It is also helpful to organize by starting date.
• Many flower seeds are viable for several years but you should purchase pelleted seeds every year because the viability can decrease as they age. 
• After many attempts at growing lisianthus the tip is to buy plugs! (I have to agree with this one. Because they take so long to grow there are a lot of ways to kill lisianthus seedlings! If you are successful in large numbers, hats off to you!)
• Grow stock, it’s good for your ego! (I agree! Zinnia are great germinators and a great ego boost too!)
• Resist the urge to start seeds too early. Nothing worse than jumping the gun and having leggy or root-bound plants. (Don’t give into the rush when you see others posting on social media. Know your zone and plant-out dates. Don’t get ahead of yourself. But I understand:  when there are mountains of snow outside you crave anything alive!)
• Buy grow lights, they are inexpensive and make stronger plants.
• Don’t be afraid to give your plants haircuts. Many plants will thrive after a pinch. Sweet peas, lisianthus, dianthus, snapdragon.
• Keep your pop (soda) bottles for watering seedlings. Drill small holes in the cap. It is easier to manage than a big watering can. Small seeds can wash away easily. Also works well for bottom watering because you can direct the flow of water where you want it to go. You can also cover one or some of the holes to make it an even more precise waterer.

• Make a note on your calendar in June to sow biennials. You will be so caught up in picking and weeding that you will probably forget the window of time to plant.
• Find out the proper germination requirements for each kind of seed. Some like dark, some like light, some want to be covered, some don’t. Find out what they want for your best success. Don’t just wing it. Jennie Love and Lisa Mason Zeigler did an awesome seed-starting presentation at the February Growers’ School in Oberlin. Go to the Members Only section of the ASCFG web site to watch the video! Most types of seeds you can Google to find out the germination requirements if it isn’t on the package or in the catalog.  The Johnny’s catalog is an amazing resource for this.
• Plant the same species in a tray, don’t mix species. Some may germinate in 3 days, some take 3 weeks.
• Label the trays as you plant. You won’t remember what was in the first tray after you have done 4 more.
• Keep good records of what, when, and how much you planted. It is such great information for next year. Once they are growing you can note if you think you should start earlier or later or more successions. Seeding records are only as good as you make them. YOUR records are more valuable than getting records from another grower and thinking you can copy them to have the same success. Figure it out yourself! It will be way more rewarding and relevant!

• If you didn’t plant the whole seed pack, mark on the package the approximate number of seeds left. You will know for next year if you need to order more or less than the previous year.
• Don’t throw out empty seed packets. Put them in a box together. You will have an instant list of what you need to order and not have to try to remember the varieties you planted last year. You think you will remember, but probably will not!
• Keep notes about how things do. If a variety didn’t germinate well, mark that down. If you LOVE the colour when you are picking them, write it down. If the cucumber beetles LOVE the light-petaled sunflowers early in the season, write it down and change when you plant the light sunflowers.
• Start seeds in an open square box (wooden mandarin orange boxes work well) and then transplant into a plug tray. It is an extra step but if you want to maximize space it will ensure that you are filling your tables with full trays. Nothing worse than running out of space to put trays and then you see a tray that is half or less full.
• Seeds want to grow! If you give them the conditions they want, they will grow. Think about how they would grow in nature. You are trying to duplicate their environment. 
• During mid-February, on those beautiful sunny days, if you have a tunnel, head out there and plant some hardy seeds. Ammi, larkspur, nigella, bachelor buttons, and bells of Ireland. They will sprout when the conditions are what they want. Earlier than you may think. The ‘Cool Flower’ idea works here in southwest Ontario for somethings but not all are hardy enough for our winter, even with protection. Take advantage of the mild February blip.

You are successful if you learn or implement one thing that you read or hear. I hope there was something in this article that made you think a different way. Be sure to attend the “Farm Hacks” presentations at the Raleigh Conference. You never know what you might learn by seeing it another way.

Janis Harris

Harris Flower Farm

Janis Harris Harris Flower Farm [email protected]