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Get growing: Seed-sowing time is here already

The snow melted and then the snow came again. Even with the ground covered, gardeners are thinking about spring and sowing seeds. Catalogs arrive daily in the mail and garden magazines are filled with articles about the newest varieties and how to sow seeds.

Few seeds should be sown indoors this early in the season. The exceptions are members of the onion family, petunias and begonias. Wait at least until February to sow most cool-weather vegetable and annual seeds such as broccoli and snapdragons and don’t start tomatoes or marigolds until the end of March at the earliest.

A good sterile potting mix designed for seed-starting is best. Use clean, sterilized pots, whether recycled yogurt containers, wooden clementine boxes or purchased pots. Light, careful watering and appropriate temperatures and fertilizers are critical to success. A sunny window was all our ancestors could find to start seeds. Luckily for the health of the plants we have the option of fluorescent bulbs to keep seedlings from getting leggy. You don’t need fancy lights — just shop lights will do. A pair of cool white and warm white bulbs is recommended but just cool white is sufficient.

Where to get seeds? Catalogs are filled with temptations but remember you have to pay shipping and handling costs. Order with a friend or relative if possible. Some reliable seed companies include Johnny’s, Select Seeds, Scheepers Kitchen Garden, Baker Creek, Territorial Seed Company, Tomato Growers Supply and Burpee.

Garden centers have a wide array of seeds including organic ones from High Mowing Organic Seeds and Seeds of Change. They also stock seed-starting supplies.

Although some seeds are best sown the first year, many are viable longer than that. For that reason, seed swaps are another great way of obtaining seeds. There are two scheduled for our area in early February.

The Hilltown Seed Swap is Feb. 2 at the Cummington Community House from 1 to 4 p.m. This is a forum on seed-sowing as well as a seed swap. The forum, beginning at 1 p.m., will be moderated by Tevis Robertson-Goldberg of Crabapple Farm in Chesterfield. The focus will be on open-pollinated seeds that can be saved for sowing in subsequent years. For more information, contact Michael Alterman at 358-6919 or alterman@speakeasy.net.

The Cabin Fever Seed Swap in Greenfield is Feb. 10 from 1 to 4 p.m. The site is the meeting room of Green Fields Market, which is on Main Street. Bring your seeds, questions, experience and excitement. For more information contact Melinda McCreven at melindamccreven@hotmail.com.

Finally, Ed Sourdiffe of the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association will demonstrate “Seed Starting” on Jan. 26 at the Hadley Garden Center at 1 p.m. The session is free. Call 584-1423 with questions.

INDOOR GARDENING: Leslie Phaneuf, owner of Annie’s Garden & Gift Store in North Amherst, will demonstrate creating indoor gardens such as terrarium, succulent and fairy gardens, at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the store on Route 116. Space is limited so call 549-6359 to register.

ORCHIDS: Bill Hutchinson, local orchid guru and owner of Larch Hill Orchids in Amherst, will discuss all facets of orchid growing in a garden clinic at the Hadley Garden Center tomorrow at 1 p.m.

PIET OUDOLF STYLE: “New Wave” is the name given to the garden design style of Dutch designer Piet Oudolf emphasizing robust, low-maintenance plants grouped according to growing needs. Learn how to design your own New Wave garden in a workshop on Jan. 26 at Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. David Dew Bruner will lecture from 10 a.m. to noon. The fee is $30.

To register, check the website, www.berkshirebotanical.org, or call 298-3926.

NEW PERENNIALS: Barbara Pierson, nursery manager of White Flower Farm in Litchfield, Conn., will discuss new perennials in a talk at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston on Jan. 26 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The fee is $15. www.towerhillbg.org.

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