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Upper Midwest Gardening: Lazy Gardening Tips

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Tips for Upper Midwest gardeners on starting vegetables from seed and choosing self-seeding annuals that come back year after year.

Tips for Upper Midwest gardeners on starting vegetables from seed and choosing self-seeding annuals that come back year after year.

Is the end of winter near? I wish and hope as I stare into a taunting white flurry of flakes outside my window. Winter can be long in these parts. Ah, but I live vicariously through the onslaught of garden catalogues adorning my doorstep. I'm like a kid at Christmas.  

This year I'm betting on self-sowing flowers. Yeah, I'm the lazy gardener for sure, always looking for ways to garden smarter, not harder while saving money in the process. Perennials fit the bill. Plant them once and they keeping coming back. Annuals, on the other hand are one-season wonders. However if you choose self-sowing annuals, they'll drop their seed and grow again the following year.

Self-sowing annuals, such as cosmos, calendula, cleome and poppies, produce armloads of blossoms. In the fall they set seed. The seed can be collected and stored for next year.  Or you can throw chance to Mother Nature. Some seeds come up from where they initially grew, but often you'll find sweet blossoms popping up in unpredictable places, even in the neighbors' garden. That's the beauty of self-sowers - that's what I love. So, it's time to shop for seeds.


In the meantime, I use January to get ready to sow veggie seeds indoors. Here's my lazy gardener seed rack. I start with a 4-foot-wide baker's rack shelving. Using small chain and "S" hooks, I hang 4-foot shop lights under each rack. The shelves will accommodate 2 lights per shelf. I use a timer so seedlings will get 14 hours of light.

I plant seeds in self-watering seed containers (another lazy gardener trick) or basic flats.  Water well, and put a plastic dome over the flats. Adjust the lights to get them as close to the flats as possible, without touching them. With domes on top, I typically don't have to water much, but it's very important to keep the seed bed moist until seeds germinate. I remove the domes once I spy green growth. I raise the lights as the plants grow and give seedlings a shot of water-soluble fertilizer (diluted at 50-percent strength) once they have at least four leaves.  

It might be winter outside, but inside my garden is growing! What do you do to wile away winter?

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