EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


October 21, 2012

Reap garden rewards with fall planting

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — This month, Lisa Ziegler is sowing seeds in her flower farm fields in southeastern Virginia.

Come spring, those fall-planted seeds will germinate into rows and rows of colorful poppies, larkspur, dill, calendula, nigella, sweet peas, bachelor button and a Queen Anne’s Lace lookalike called Green Mist.

“Fall planting is full of more anticipation than any other season,” says Lisa. She grows fresh cut flowers for bouquets and stems she provides to customers, florists and food markets through her business, The Gardener’s Workshop, an online gardening tool and seed shop (www.shoptgw.com or 888-977-7159).

“You spend all winter wondering, hoping and peering out the window thinking are those flowers going to survive and bloom? It is such a blissful moment when you realize you did it.”

These flowering plants are called hardy annuals, and thrive in winter conditions up to zones 6. In colder regions, the seeds are best planted in early spring, or six to eight weeks before your last frost date, when the days are warm and you can work your soil, says Lisa.

For sure success in your home garden, Lisa suggests that you add and thoroughly work in two to three inches of aged compost before you plant. Plant in a pattern, and mark using a plastic knife as a plant marker; straight rows you mark are easiest. Hoe or hand weed weekly to prevent invaders, and mulch once the seedlings are tall enough. When the seedlings are 4-8 inches tall, feed them a liquid fertilizer.

“Then, put it all to bed for the winter and wait for the spring surprise,” she says.

“In spring, cut your flowers weekly and they will bloom into summer.”

This method of sowing directly in the garden means you don’t start these particular seeds indoors. The seeds germinate into babies in five to 30 days, depending on the species. They are hardy and will survive whatever Old Man Winter throws your way, because all the action is happening underground, says Lisa.

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