I live in the Chicago area, which more or less means I could start the day in a bikini and end it in a snowsuit. Case in point…on April 25, it was 73 degrees F, on April 27 it was snowing. Yes, snowing. On April 28, the rain was relentless and the thermometer barely reached 45 degrees F. Bitter. My growing window is unpredictable and I often don’t set anything out until at least Mother’s Day. Even then, I’m leery and hold some things like tomato seedlings until the last week of May.
Direct sowing tomatoes, jalapenos and ground cherries (some of our favorites) is impossible here. A narrow growing window means the time it takes directly sown seeds to germinate, produce flowers and finally fruit brings me to the first fall frost and zero chance of enjoying my hard work. So I resort to starting much of my vegetable garden and a good portion of my flower garden from seed, many of which I receive from All-America Selections, a seed trialing organization that sends me seeds to test in my zone 5 garden.
With a much narrower growing window than, say Kentucky or Alabama, I have to resort to other methods to ensure I can enjoy certain flowers like morning glories and moonflowers for as long as possible. They take a bit longer to germinate due to their armor-like seed coats. The seed coat exists to help the seed withstand all the abuse Mother Nature can muster. From a critter’s acidic digestive tract to extreme environmental temperature fluctuations, a seed needs protection to survive.
Pre-soaking the seeds is the trick to softening up these little guys and it’s a piece of cake!
How To Soak Seeds
Fill a bowl(s) with hot water and add the seeds. Soak for no longer than 12-24 hours. I soak morning glories and moonflowers for approximately 24 hours, give or take.
Once the soaking process is complete, plant the seeds immediately. You may be able to direct sow them based on your climate (lucky you!), but if not, plant them in small pots based on the planting depth instructions you’ll find on the back of the seed packet. Avoid potting mixes for seed starting. Unlike seed starting mixes, potting mixes aren’t sterilized and often come with fertilizers that could destroy the seeds. I’ve used Burpee’s Organic Seed Starting mix for the last several years with great success.
Once they’re potted up, I cover with a bit of plastic wrap and secure it with a rubberband. The makeshift mini-greenhouse helps retain the moisture in the soil. At the first sign of life, remove the plastic. You’ve just shaved several days, possibly a week, off the germination period.
Do you soak seeds? Which ones?
Kathy Farnsworth says
I’ve been gardening for 40 years and I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never grown purple hyacinth bean. Wondering…do I winter sow them in milk jugs like I do many of my seeds? Under heat mat and covered with a dome inside? I live in Westminster, just north of Denver – zone 5b. I did my seed starting this past weekend because we had the 4th largest snow storm in history. After shoveling, what else was there to do? ‘Would love your advice. I have the perfect location for this vine.
Heather Blackmore says
Hi Kathy! I’ve never winter sown them so I’m not sure how that would go. I just start theming my south-facing wind I sill in April and they take off. You can also direct sow but that just takes longer. They are just so easy to grow. I have a friend near Denver and she sent pix of that snow storm…Holy Cow!!! You guys got buried. Thanks for reading and Happy Spring!!!
After my daily 4 mile walk I treat myself to caramel coffee with cream and laptop time. So fun to find and browse your site. Yeh, our guys that we pay to do our driveway and sidewalks totally ghosted us. I shoveled snow all day, taking breaks. I’m 63…I am woman. Thanks for the information. I will start in April under lights inside – started sweet peas and snapdragons this past weekend.
Heather Blackmore says
Sounds delicious! Sweet peas are on my list of things to try. Maybe next year! Good for you with the daily walk, I exercise daily too. It does wonders for me in so many ways.