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A garden season begins with a seed

The gardening world has awoken. For a few weeks from late fall until the end of the year, it does go quiet, but now with seed catalogues on the move and seminars planned, there’s much to keep eager gardeners busy. Even though it may feel like spring is long way off, they’re ordering seed, shopping for grow lights, and drawing up plans for backyard makeovers.

I’d say there’s as much excitement brewing in the middle of January as there is in the middle of summer. Gardens are doing their own thing by then without much help from the gardener. At that stage we have the great satisfaction of seeing the garden flourish, yet sadly there are occasional concerns, even worries. We worry about the weather, rogue rabbits (any rabbits), blight on tomatoes, rampant weeds, and ever-increasing water bills. Right now, those concerns are forgotten because our heads are currently full of dreams, ideas and lots of enthusiasm, all supplemented by the need to forget it’s a record-setting winter for cold — the other day I heard a fire hydrant whistling for a dog.

This is also the time of year to get together with fellow enthusiasts and forget about the weather for a while. As for dreams, Jan. 21 is the date for Galt Horticultural Society’s annual Dream Garden Conference and it usually sells out. For last-minute tickets, contact Lynne Goulet-Smith at 519-841-3325 or lynne@galthort. If you miss it, Drumbo Agricultural Society’s “Come Bloom with Us” takes place on Sunday, Feb. 4; information at

Meanwhile, if growing seedlings under lights indoors is a new venture for you, here are a few tips.

For seedlings, all you really need for an economical setup is a basic twin tube T8 fluorescent shop light and a timer. There’s no need for special grow lights for seedlings. The pricier options like T5 high output fluorescents are more suited to growing exotic plants or food crops.

LED are more common now and are also fine for seedlings. They’re available in the form of a shop light and they use much less hydro, although they’re usually more expensive to buy. Whatever the type of light source you choose it will need to be suspended about 150 mm above seedlings and timed to be on for 14 hours a day.

It’s still far too early to start most seeds, even if you’re raring to go. Start too early and you’ll run out of space with all the problems of overcrowding. It does depend, however, on what you choose to grow as the germination time for distinct species varies considerably. The seeds of some plants need special treatment — a spell in a freezer (stratification), soaking, or scarification — the scratching or scraping done to weaken a tough seed husk.

Some seeds can take weeks or months before germination takes place and others won’t sprout at all unless they’ve passed through the digestive system of wandering Yak in Outer Mongolia, so to avoid disappointment, determine the individual needs of each well before planting. Fortunately, basic information is usually on the seed packet. If the seeds are from a non-commercial source or a seed swap, more research may be required.

For rare, exotic or unusual seeds, an excellent online resource is Cyndi’s Catalogue of Garden Catalogues at

As we shiver our way through winter, there are more gardening events upcoming — seminars, conferences, shows, including Garden Kitchener’s Seedy Saturday at Kitchener Public Library on Feb. 24 and Stratford Garden Festival, March 1 to 4. More are posted on the Facebook page of Grand Gardeners. If that isn’t enough to keep you busy in the “off” season, check out your local garden club. There’s one in every community. Find yours at

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