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Sunday, Nov 19, 2017
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Time To Go To Seed

The sudden appearance of winter last week made me think maybe it's time I behave like it's January. Following the lead of my Carolina jessamine (blooming) and desert rose (wow-blooming!), I've been skipping springlike through the garden, happily planting, pruning and puttering on golden Saturday afternoons. Now, I am the first to wag a finger at those who choose to blithely forget the lessons of history when times are sweet. We know that people who borrow more money than they can pay back will end up in economic crisis. (Ahem, note to nation.) And parents who invest in new bath towels while there are teenagers in the house will have only zit cream tie-dyed terry in a matter of days. These are truths borne of painful trial. As is the fact that January is the coldest month of the year in Florida. Even if it starts with beach weather. And February usually holds an end-of-the-month cold snap. These are Tampa Bay area history facts.
Last week's daily freeze-threat conversations with Kim - "Are you gonna cover tonight?" "I don't know. I hate covering. Are you gonna?" - have snapped me back to reality. I'm going to do what they do up North: stay inside and start seeds. I shared my plan with Kim, proud of its economic good sense: When the real spring comes, I won't be standing in line at nurseries to spend big spring fever bucks. "What are some good things around the house to start seeds in?" I asked her. "You know, like egg cartons?" I've already used my three smallest terra cotta pots. They hold prenatal black-eyed Susan vines and Datura. Kim looked at me like she'd just got a whiff of a blooming corpse flower. "I don't do seeds," she said. "I like my plants big and blooming." My bad. The lessons of history so quickly forgotten. I've started saving the cardboard cores from toilet paper and paper towel rolls. Cut them to about 3 inches tall, set them in a tray and you can transplant container and all into the garden. The bottoms of plastic milk jugs and deli containers also make good seed starters. Don't forget to punch holes for drainage. Seeds need sun, warmth and moisture to germinate, so put them in a sunny window. I cover them with cellophane so they won't dry out. If you don't see signs of life in a couple of weeks, remove the cellophane and stand over them with a trowel. Start shouting, "Sprout for god sakes, slackers! No green in 24 hours and you're compost!" History has taught me that sometimes you've got to get tough.

Penny Carnathan can be reached at [email protected]

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