Winter does not agree with me as a flower farmer and as a person. There’s always an element of surprise when I go outside to tend the chickens or check on my baby plants under the low tunnels. I get out there and kinda…freak out. Anxiety gnaws at me about plants and animals freezing and dying, low tunnels blowing away or collapsing and water freezing where it shouldn’t. I’ve learned a few things help: warm clothes (we’re talking Carharts), lots of lights inside the house, St. John’s Wort tincture, exercise and starting seeds.
For the past 15 years I’ve been starting seeds of one kind or another in February (now January, because: poppies!) and it’s become a natural phenomena; like the groundhog coming out to see it’s shadow. Sometime around the end of January I pop my head out of my hibernation cave beneath the duvet and think “It’s time to start the seeds…”. Except I don’t go back into my cave because, unlike the groundhog, once I’m awake, there’s SO much more to do! In late February the mid-day sun will peek back over my neighbors house to the south. The crocuses aren’t far behind. Then the daffodils and tulips pop up next to the anemones and ranunculus I fell in love with last spring. Near the middle of March I’m officially out of winter and running straight for the bulk of flower farming season.
Starting seeds is one of the easiest and hardest things I do for my job. Easy: seeds just want to GROW! It’s what they do. Hard: cover/don’t cover, light or dark for germination, heat mats/no heat, weeks to transplant…and so on and so forth. Within this simple task are a million and one ways to screw it up and end up with no plant at all! Then when the tiny plants are up and growing I inevitably drop a tray or run out of time (or room) to plant or the cat lays on the tray and squishes all the baby plants. So I’ve learned to start more seeds than I think I’ll need and that having no Bells-of-Ireland really sucks.
The magic of starting seeds lies in that trust and dedication to Mother Nature’s rhythms. Because when it’s 15 degrees and everything is frozen outside, including the ground, starting those microscopic poppy seeds is the RIGHT thing to do.