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Frill Free Zone Newsletter
January 15, 2024

The middle of January seems like a dead time, when everything is dormant, and resting. But is it?

January 15 2024

There are things you need to do right now, if you have seeds that need a cold period to germinate. These include many hardy perennials, shrubs and trees.

One of the most important perennials to me is milkweed, or Asclepias incarnata, the swamp milkweed. Contrary to the name, it doesn't require a swamp to grow, simply plant in an out of the way spot where it can be ignored.

Ignored by us, that is, not the Monarch butterflies that rely on it to lay their eggs. Swamp milkweed is the only food those picky caterpillars will eat. This is why the suggestion to put it in an out of the way spot, as it will look quite ragged after the caterpillars feast on it.

To grow it from seed it will require a month or two of cold temperatures to degrade the seed coat, and allow the embryo to germinate. I use a jug with most of the bottom cut off (but not entirely, leave a hinge), fill the bottom with damp, sterilized potting soil, and sprinkle the seeds on top.

Then tape up the bottom of the jug back onto the top to create a little greenhouse. Put it in the garden in a protected spot, where it won't be disturbed until the spring.

Check it in March or April. If you see sprouts, take the top of the jug off for the day, put it in a cold frame if you have one. Eventually if the little seedlings are sturdy enough, plant them into separate pots, using great care as they don't like their roots disturbed.

By the fall, they should be big enough to plant into their designated spot to grow for the rest of their lives.

Get ready to see Monarch butterflies, and many others, visiting for the nectar.

See more about this method of germinating seeds here.

Stay tuned for more on the garden plans in progress - including a patio design, and some earth work to prevent flooding of the back garden.
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