With snow still dotting the landscape, and a very apparent chill still in the air, it’s hard to believe that there’s anything you can do right now in the Northeast to get your garden ready. However, did you know that you can actually sow poppies, snapdragons, amaranth, larkspurs, delphiniums, coneflowers, rudbeckias, and many others in the snow? Many of these species produce so many of their own seeds that they will reseed themselves and intermingle once established. Once you establish a known re-seeder, you will usually have more than enough seed to keep your flower patch thick and still share with neighbors.
Planting seeds now does come with a slight risk. Animals can eat them (birds, rodents, insects), wind can blow them, weather can cause premature germination, and they might accidentally get weeded out by a well-meaning gardener. But if you’re itching for spring, and willing to take a little gamble, you can get out there and plant some winter sowing or cool season seeds.
Where to finds seeds
It’s best to look to native seed resources like Ernst Conservation or American Meadows for seeds for use during winter sowing, or the box stores will usually have various seed mixes (wildflower, hummingbird, butterfly, perennial) in large bags that are much more fresh now, than in May or June. Or check out the spring bulb selection like peonies, lilies, gladiolus, dahlias, cannas, caladiums, elephant ears, along with a number of rhizomatous and tuberous perennials like hosta, rudbeckia, and echinacea. Some other options for now are to purchase vegetable seeds and other flowers which can be planted when the ground is thawed, but there is still a risk of frost (peas, beets, radish, broccoli, cabbage, kale, calendula, pansy, etc.)
Unlike the previous two seasons, the online seed vendors are managing to keep up, (for now). Keep in mind that in our region people are not yet feeling the impending spring season, and as an early-bird you could have some better selection. Seed supplies are mixed this year, but overall the seed racks are full of goodies. I'm going to try some cool season seeds that I found at Tyrone Milling, from a seed company which is new to me. Seed starting supplies are still abundant for the home grower, but if you want to plant those seedlings into bigger pots, then you may have trouble finding potting mix, so buy it now if you know you are going to use it.