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Garden Talk

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"GardenTalk", a regular feature for The Gazette, brings to you the combined experience and expertise of Holly Lake's dedicated gardeners and others. A continuing focus will be subjects of interest to anyone who has ever bought a packet of seeds or dug a hole in the ground for a plant, as well as the dedicated and sharp-eyed observers of nature. "GardenTalk" will not only inform you each issue but solicits your ideas and personal gardening experiences which you may wish to pass on to others. The hope is that "GardenTalk" will enrich us all as well as help make Holly Lake even more beautiful.
Time to Think Seeds
This is a frustrating time for the gardeners. It's the recommended time to be planting wildflower seeds for spring blooms. But there's no rain in the forecast (hopefully by the time this appears we will have had a downpour or two). It's dry as dust in the garden and on top of that we've had a couple of killing frosts. In our zone (which is seven) we are told to plant seeds September through December. Seeds that germinate quickly will have time to develop a healthy root system that will sustain them through frosts to come. If ground temperature is less than 70 degrees some seeds may not germinate at all but remain dormant until spring. So what do you do? Well, first, you select seeds that have been developed for this area or sow seeds obtained from local plants. There are numerous Texas sites for wildflower and other kinds of seeds that are adapted to our climate. Of course one that comes most readily to mind is "Wildseed Farms" outside Fredericksburg which does a major business in native plant seeds and produces a catalogue with a lot of planting lore (this is one catalogue which deserves to be read thoroughly, even the fine print). Catch them at www.wildseedfarms.com . Then there's "Native American Seed' in Junction, TX (www.seedsource.com and Kings Creek Gardens, Cedar Hill, TX (813 Straus Rd., Cedar Hill,, 75104) and of course there are others. Or you can access the Native Plant Society of Texas at www.npsot.org
In picking a site for planting, ask youself questions about 1. Water, 2. Sunlight (at least eight hours per day), 3. Weeds on the site and your plan for weed eradication and 4. Drainage. When you've got your sleeves rolled up and your array of garden tools at hand, begin by getting read of existing weeds, mowing dead vegetation and getting rid of the clippings, raking the surface of the ground lightly to prepare a seed bed (till to a depth of one inch), add masonry sand, perlite or potting soil to the seeds for distribution, broadcast half the seed mix over the prepared area and then sow the rest in a direction perpendicular to the initial sowing. Press the seed into the soil by walking over it. Be sure that the seed is not covered more than 1/16th of an inch, even if some of them remain visible.
Don't plant your seed in an area where clover or other winter-flourishing plants are in evidence -such as annual rye grass-as they will overwhelm the emerging plants. Use fresh seed. Don't get over-anxious about germination. Though some plants may germinate in as little as two weeks, others will require over a month to show signs of life. Keep your soil moist for four to six weeks during the establishment period. Use light and frequent applications of water if there is no rainfall. Avoid over-watering, keep the application of moisture light. Fertilizing is not required, in fact it may produce a rash of unwanted weeds and more foliage than blooms. If you feel the need to fertilize keep the nitrogen content low. Don't "cultivate" to a depth of more than one inch because the disturbance will activate weed seeds that are under the ground just waiting to be invited back to life. Buy enough seed to adequately cover the site you have selected. The only other requisite is patience. The time period between seed broadcasting and plant emergence and from that to blooms seems an eternity. But in the middle of winter so does the arrival of spring. -Lucy Germany