Thursday, February 5, 2009

Seed Mix vs Seed Packets

Home Depot and Target are two stores I've found so far this year that are starting a little early and selling seeds for the following spring. For the area, February is outrageously early. Though I've bought seeds from them already I won't be planting them indoors until March 1st at the earliest. And these won't make their way outside until late April or May.

So the topic I wanted to write about today is the choices we have. Just to use Home Depot as an example, they have a huge selection of seeds. Individual varieties of all sorts for almost anything you could want. Organic or Non, Foreign or Native, they have almost everything you'd want as far as commonly used plants goes. But then they also have Seed Mixes. These are mostly for wildflowers and have certain things in mind. Things like Butterfly Mix, or Hummingbird Mix have a huge variety of plants in them. But let me point out how stupid Seed Mix's actually are.

First off they're not that bad especially if you're looking for a quick and easy solution. But would you ever take seeds to all your fruits and vegetables and mix them together? No of course not! Imagen what that farm would look like. Cucumbers, Pumpkins, Cherry Tomatoes, Broccoli, and Potatoes all coming up randomly among Peas, Beans, Peppers, and asparagus. I'll point out that this might work but they're never sold this way. They all grow different heights, and have different needs, and the humidity generated from all the mass planting would cause the fruits to rot quicker.

So why would you mix the seeds of wildflowers all together and let them be planted randomly? One seed mix from Territorial Seeds is their Flower Mix for Honey Bees. Here's what it contains.

Honey Bee Flower Mix
Forget-Me-Not, Chinese
Baby Blue-Eyes
Wallflower, Siberian
Poppy, California
Poppy, Corn
Gaillardia, Annual
Mignonete, Common
Beeplant, Rocky Mountain
Gilia, Globe
Prairie clover, Purple
Rockcress, White
Coreopsis, Plains
Coreopsis, Lance Leaved
Black-Eyed Susan
Coneflower, Purple
Daisy, Fleabane
Aster, New England

Now I have a list of plants that I know Honey Bees go nuts for and I have to say not many of them are on this list. Forget-Me-Not is a biannual and won't bloom until it's second year. Poppies are one I haven't tried yet but do well. Coreopsis ... sure why not. Black-Eye'd Susan, Coneflowers, and Daisy are all related and do average at best (they're also a wonderful landscaping plant!). Asters are a great choice too but won't be blooming to their full potential for honey bees until their second or third year.

As for the rest ... I have no idea. I know beekeepers who garden like I do and we've never herd of half of these.

You're not going to attract Hummingbirds to your garden unless you have the habitat they normally nest in. They eat way more insects than nectar in a day. They also need evergreens to make their nest in. Flowers in the shape of their long beak tend to help and can become a regular visit for them on a daily basis.

Butterfly mix you'll have greater luck with just becuase there are more butterflies to go around. However most of them won't be around until late May or June at the earliest. Monarchs don't even start to lay eggs on a regular basis until Auguest. Others over winter though and are more likely to hang around but only if you have their Host Plant. Things like Joe Pye Weed, Milkweed, and Spicebush take time to grow. Joe Pye Weed actually requires sterification (a period of cold) which goes against what some of the other annuals they're seeds are being mixed with.

One seed mix I had just for color had Morning Glory mixed in. This Vine, though an annual, can grow 15 to 25 feet long and will take over your small patch of color.

In short, it is always better buy individual seeds or plants. And don't mix everything together.