Growing Flower Seeds — Flower Starting Methods
(Excerpt from previous Burrell Seed Catalogs)
TRANSPLANTING: If you have difficulty making plants live after transplanting to your garden, try moving in a ball of moist earth containing one or several plants and taking care not to disturb the roots. Use trowel or transplanting fork. Keep shaded and water from hose in fine mist should then be applied for several hours to discourage wilting.
(A) Sow in the bed, border or row where the plants are to grow.
The soil should be loamy, full of humus to the extent that it will easily pulverize, not dry out readily and crack. Make certain that you have good topsoil, not fill-in from the basement excavation. A load or two of good topsoil hauled in and well-fortified with humus — leaf mold, peat moss, well-rotted manure or composted organic material — may mean the difference between pride of accomplishment and envying your neighbors’ more attractive flower bed. Nearly all flowers do well in sunny location; see page 60 for list of those that do well in partial shade.
Spade to a depth of 6 inches, pulverize and rake smooth. Plant in rows or broadcast the seed. Cover lightly to a depth four or five times the seed’s diameter. Very small seeds may be merely pressed into the soil with a flat board and a very little soil and pulverized sphagnum or peat moss sprinkled over them. Larger seeds may be planted singly, well covered, but more thickly than plants are wanted. Firm the soil well over the seed. Watering now becomes of great importance. At no time should the soil be allowed to become hard and dry, yet excessive watering may cause the seed to rot, sour the soil, or cause “damping-off.” Use a fine spray that will not wash out the seed. When the plants appear, thin them out, allowing each to grow singly, without crowding. The distance between them is governed by their ultimate size and spread. Excess plants may usually be moved to a new location.
Cultivate shallowly so as to not damage roots. Hothouses set close together over the seed row will give protection and force growth of plants.
(B) Sow in outdoor seedbed, to be transplanted. Same as (A) except bed should not be over six feet wide for easy tending and always sow seeds in rows. Keep soil moist until plants are up. A thin dressing of peat moss covering soil surface will help. Place in full sun, protect from winds and, in the case of perennial seedlings, provide a lath or cloth canopy for shade during heat of summer. This should be removable in damp or cloudy weather. Seedlings may be transplanted when they make true leaves, that is, when the second pair of leaves appear; or they may be left until larger before being moved to their permanent location. Perennials should be moved from the seedbed to a nursery row, to grow until fall before being moved to their permanent location.
(C) Sow in cold frame or in protected or lath shaded spot that can be kept moist and undisturbed over a long period. This method is used for slow germinating seed, some of which requires months to sprout. Plant as in (B) preparing soil as in (A). During the spring, summer and fall, water often enough to prevent soil from drying out. A mulch of peat or pulverized sphagnum moss will help retain moisture. In winter to afford protection, cover with leaves. Have patience with slow germinating subjects; do not disturb too quickly. Any live seed will eventually grow if given time enough, provided soil, moisture supply, etc., are right. When seedlings appear and make true leaves, transplant to pots, nursery row or permanent location. If moss forms on soil surface, sprinkle fresh earth over top.
(D) Sow indoors in boxes or flats. These should be of convenient size and about 3 inches deep. The soil used should be composed of about equal parts of leaf mold, sharp sand and good garden soil. The bottom of the flat may be covered with a layer of coarse gravel, broken pots or some such material, and the prepared soil finely sifted to fill up the balance of the box within about an inch of the top. Saturate with boiling water and let dry for 24 hours or until the right texture for making shallow furrows in which to plant the seed. Place in a window where exposed to the sun and cover with a pane of glass to retard evaporation. 1/4 inch layer of sphagnum moss over soil will conserve moisture and retard damping-off. Water carefully with a fine spray, keeping the soil moist but not wet. Remove the glass after the plants are up. Or cover with wet paper which should be kept wet until seeds germinate, then promptly remove the paper. Some flower seeds are very slow to germinate, so be sure to allow sufficient time without disturbing soil. Too much watering will result in tall, weak plants. When the seedlings are large enough to handle, about four leaves, they should be transplanted one inch apart in another bed, flat or in small pots (paper pots are excellent for this purpose), later to be reset in open ground. For blocking plants see page 57 under “How to grow Tomatoes”.
(E) Sow in hotbed. This is the best way to start plants that are to be transplanted if greenhouse is not available. We recommend use of Gro-Quick Electric Seed Bed Heater. Call for information and pricing on this exceptional heater. Prepare soil as in (A) and sow is in (B).
(F) Time of planting. March or early spring.
(G) Time of planting outdoors. After all danger of frost is over and the soil is warm.
(H) Time of planting indoors, or under glass. March or very early spring for transplanting after danger of frost is over.
Blooming period of most flowers can be greatly extended by frequent evening irrigations. There is a tendency to “go to seed” if soil becomes dry.