HOW TO START SEEDS INDOORS

Few gardening pursuits are as rewarding as growing your flowers and vegetables from seed. For centuries, New England gardeners and farmers alike have embarked on their labor of love early on the season. The goal: to sow their seeds indoors while patiently awaiting the arrival of warm weather.

Our friends at Botanical Interests Seeds have helped us provide some indoor seed starting basics. We love the Botanical Interests seed collection. You’ll find hundreds of Non-GMO and USDA certified organic varieties.

 

Carefully tending to your plants from the beginning invokes a sense of wonder in gardeners of all ages. This is especially true in New England, as our growing season is short. Other than cool-season crops, you’ll want to wait until after the “Average Last Frost Date” to sow outside. The Farmer’s Almanac lists that as May 4th in Boston, but this is just an average, and it varies by town. Starting from seed allows you to get a jump-start on varieties that you may otherwise have to wait until May to find in the garden center. Different seed varieties require different numbers of days to sprout and grow. All Botanical Interests seed packets are labeled with their germination time. Use this information to help you find the perfect time to sow, relative to the last frost.

The other advantage of starting from seed is finding a selection that you may not otherwise find in started plants. Depending on which Mahoney’s you visit, you’ll find up to 500 seed varieties to choose from – this is especially exciting if you are looking for heirloom and hard-to-find vegetable varieties!

Perhaps the most compelling reason is that seed starting provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment – especially for kids. It connects you to nature, and makes you appreciate, and control where your food really comes from. We say it’s hard to explain – you just have to experience it!

GETTING STARTED

We should mention that many plants should be started from seed outdoors. Radishes, spinaches and carrots, for example, grow so fast that it is much easier to sow directly outdoors. There are other veggies such as salad greens that are fussy about being transplanted so planting directly into the garden produces better results. That said, let’s dig into seed starting indoors.

INDOOR SOWING GUIDE

 

CHOOSE YOUR CONTAINER

Most people buy our seed-starting flats because they maximize plants per square inch, but no one says you have to go that route; you can use anything from cut-down milk cartons to elegant glazed pottery. As long as the container is not too shallow, and you have proper drainage, the plants don’t really care. Go with what you like to look at. We carry many biodegradable fiber pots and seed trays, perfect for growing! Note: If you do reuse a container, make sure to clean and sanitize first.

LIGHTEN UP

Seeds need light – lots of it! When starting your seeds indoors, place in a south-facing sunny window. If you don’t think you’ll have enough sun, stop in and talk to us for tips on artificial lighting! There are ways to use your own lighting at home to help your seedlings along!

PLANTING MIXES

If you search online you’ll find a lot of conflicting information about what’s the “best” planting soil to use. We sell several – from our organic professional potting mix to an organic seed starting media by Espoma. They’ll all work great – just remember that regular outdoor garden soil is definitely not OK. Seeds need the right amount of moisture, warmth and air to germinate. Regular garden soil is too dense and will drown the seeds and eliminate much-needed oxygen and create an environment ripe for pests and disease.

name your plants

When they’re very young a lot of seedlings look pretty much the same, so do yourself a favor and label the plants as soon as you get started. While you are at it, mark down when you first planted the seeds. Trust us, you’ll find this really helpful.

keep it cozy

Seeds need warmth – most will germinate at temperatures around 75ºF, but eggplants, peppers, and other warm-season plants like it even warmer. Again it’s good to read package instructions carefully. Once the seeds germinate, room temperatures of 70º–75º will keep most seedlings happy.

a word about water

Water the containers as needed to keep them evenly moist but not sopping wet. Misting using a spray bottle, or bottom watering (adding water to the drainage tray) are great ways to keep planting mix moist without disturbing seeds and young seedlings. Covering your containers with a clear lid or clear plastic wrap also helps increase humidity during germination. After your seedlings emerge, remove the cover.

count down

Once your seedlings have grown enough to transplant to their ultimate spot (either in the ground or in a container) it’s time to prepare your babies to withstand outdoor conditions. It called “Hardening off.” Start by placing your seedlings outdoors in a protected, shady area. Over the next 7 to 10 days, move them more and more into direct sun (for sun-loving varieties). But remember your seedling are still very “tender” – be sure to bring them in at night if temperatures drop below 45°F. Then congratulations – you’re ready to plant.

Pollinators

Bees, hummingbirds and butterflies pollinate a third or more of the food we eat. You can help simply by choosing seeds that create habitats that protect and feed pollinators. And while you’re thinking of this, plant a diversity of colors, bloom times, and heights – it will provide a better environment, and it will be prettier for you, too.

a final thought

Before you start, take a minute to appreciate the seed. They come in all sizes – some as fine as powder – but each is a remarkable living thing with a protective outer coat, an embryo, stored nutrients, and a genetic blueprint for its development. When you stop to think, it’s really quite miraculous that a tiny seed will grow into a big, beautiful plant, in just one season!

A Blooming Valentine

Our greenhouses are filled with beautiful blooms that make the perfect gift for yourself or your Valentine. Flowering plants will last longer than your cut flowers, and serve as a reminder that even though it is still Winter, Spring really is just around the corner. Please note, supplies and selection will vary at each Mahoney’s location.

What’s in Store: Indoor Houseplants

When the weather’s chilly, our greenhouses are an oasis of tropical houseplants. Browse our vast selection of tabletop sized to large floor-plants. Find varieties for low light, bright light, easy care and more!

A BEGINNERS GUIDE: CARING FOR HOUSEPLANTS

Caring for indoor plants is really pretty easy. Plants need light, water and fertilizer to grow and flourish. Different plants have different requirements and some plants are easier than others. If you are a beginner – or if you are really busy and need something low maintenance – start with one of our easy care houseplants. These plants are durable, will handle a range of indoor temperatures in your home and will withstand a bit of watering neglect.

HOW MUCH LIGHT DOES MY INDOOR PLANT NEED?

This is a key question and one you need to ask before deciding which houseplant to bring home. Light requirements are divided into 3 groups:

  • Full Sun
    4 to 6 hours a day direct sun – try a southern exposure.
  • Medium Light
    2 to 3 hours of direct sun, or 6 to 8 hours of bright indirect light, typically eastern or western exposure, or perhaps southern exposure but not placed directly near a window.
  • Low Light
    No direct sunlight, but some indirect light, or even 8 or more hours a day of electric lights (regular incandescent, fluorescent, etc.)

Some plants are more sensitive to light fluctuations than others. For best results pick a houseplant that matches your room’s available light. Look at the plant label to see its group, or just ask us.

HOW TO WATER YOUR INDOOR PLANTS:

After determining the right amount of light, you need to know a little bit about watering. Surprisingly enough, the #1 reason houseplants fail to thrive is OVERWATERING, and that is because many people look at the top surface of the soil to decide when to water. Soil often looks dry on top, even when the plant has plenty of moisture. The real question is how moist the soil is below the surface.

Stick your finger right into the soil to a depth of 2” (about to your second knuckle). Gently pull it out look near the knuckle. You should be able to see if the soil is dry, slightly moist or very wet. Sort of like a human cake tester.

  • If the soil is dry at this 2” depth, it is time to water.
  • If the soil is slightly moist, wait a day or more.
  • If the soil is downright wet at this depth, cut back on how frequently you water.

If possible, water your plants in the morning and use tepid (slightly warm) water.

Water thoroughly and slowly, but stop as soon as water runs through the drainage holes. Make sure that the soil is thoroughly wet when you are finished. If the water runs through the drainage hole too quickly, the pot may be crammed with roots and contain too little soil. In this case it may be time to repot.

It’s important not to leave excess water in the saucer – roots can rot if constantly wet. An alternative is to fill your drainage dish with a layer of small pebbles or river rocks. The rocks will keep the bottom of the pot elevated over excess water.

DO I NEED TO FERTILIZE MY HOUSEPLANTS?

We regularly feed our houseplants. When you bring it home it is important to continue this care – especially if it is a flowering plant. As a rule of thumb, houseplants should be fed every other week in spring, summer and early fall. As light levels diminish in November, your plant will need less fertilization – once a month or less. Using a complete liquid fertilizer will ensure healthy, thriving plants. Follow package instruction carefully – too much fertilizer can be worse than too little.

Follow these three guidelines and even the most notorious plant killer can enjoy happy healthy plants in many rooms in their home, dorm or office.

AIR CLEANING HOUSEPLANTS

Airborne toxins such as formaldehyde, TCE and benzene are present in every home and office. That’s because these compounds are found in countless products used everyday: paints, varnishes, plastics, rubber, insulation and particleboard. Even permanent-pressed clothes, grocery bags and facial tissue contribute harmful toxins in the air you breath. Worse yet, symptoms from these toxins include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, allergic dermatitis, chronic respiratory diseases and neuropsychological problems. Yikes!

Houseplants fight air pollution by absorbing these harmful contaminants. NASA researchers discovered that certain houseplants can reduce indoor pollutants by 87 percent in 24 hours. So, why not add several plants to your home and office? You’ll love the look and breathe easier, too!

1. FICUS ELASTICA – RUBBER PLANT

This beatiful plant will grow to be a dramatic feature in any home or office

A bold tree, with its large, rubbery leaves, on stems as straight as exclamation points! This variety is a winner indoors – give it as much indirect light as possible and keep away from drafts – you’ll have plently of joyful years ahead with your new houseplant. Although they enjoy humidity, they also tolerate lower humidity levels.

2. ARACEAE EPIPREMNUM – POTHOS

An easy indoor vine that anyone can grow.

While In the wild they can overwhelm a hundred foot tall tree; in your house they will simply trail nicely down a plant stand. One of the top ten clean air plants, Pothos help remove formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air. When a vine gets too long, simply prune it from the top (close to the soil) to encourge new growth near the center of the plant.

3. ARACEAE SPATHIPHYLLUM – PEACE LILY

Thrives in lower light – so it’s lovely in dining and living rooms, offices, etc. Purifies the air, too.

Another one of our very popular “Easy Care” houseplants, these beautiful Peace Lilies have striking white flowers and beautiful foliage.They remove air borne toxins, too! They like water and misting more in the summer, less in the winter. They can bloom twice a year if fertilized. Try the slow release Osmocote.

4. FICUS BENJAMINA – FICUS TREE

A beautiful tree that you can grow in your house.

This Ficus tree is a classic in office lobbies and atriums It tolerates some full sun but is best in filtered sun. Do not overwater; allow the soil to dry and inch or two below the surface. What it like best is to be keep in one spot; moving it from one environment to another can cause it to drop leaves. Allow it to acclimate if you are dramatically changing its home.

5. DRACAENA FRAGRANS “MASSANGEANA” – CORN PLANT

A houseplant that thrives in either bright or low light!

One of our most popular “Easy Care” houseplants, this low maintenance miracle resembles the leaves of corn stalks. Although it tolerates neglect, be sure to not over-water or over-fertilize, and never place your corn plant in a draft or direct sun. This slow-growing houseplant will give you visual pleasure for years to come!

6. AGLAONEMA – CHINESE EVERGREEN

One of the easiest houseplants to grow – now available in exciting new hybrids.

Aglaonema are popular at home, dorms and offices because they are both great looking and very dependable. Check out the hybrids for fresh new color options. In general the green varieties tolerate low light whereas the colorful varieties need brighter light (check tag). Considered a lucky plant in Asian culture, Aglaonema like to be kept moist but not soaking wet.

7. CHAMAEDOREA ERUMPENS – BAMBOO PALM

Looking for a palm that tolerates shade? Stop right here!

Beautiful, tall and graceful, this palm adapts well to a variety of different light environments. Plus it’s proven to help clean the air toxins in your home or office. Although this palm is relatively low-maintenance, it likes to be misted once in a while. An inexpensive, beautiful addition to your decor!

8. SYNGONIUM PODOPHYLLUM – ARROWHEAD VINE

Great easy care houseplant for a hanging basket or as a climber!

The arrow-shaped leaves on this easy houseplant make it a great option for places where a climber or hanger work better. Arrowhead vines will tolerate low light but will grow much better in bright, indirect light. They like to be moist at all times, but not soggy. Arrowhead vines like to be root-bound and therefore do not need to be repotted very often.

9. SCHEFFLERA ARBORICOLA – ARBORICOLA

The perfect match for anyone wanting a houseplant!

You can’t beat an Arboricola! It can tolerate a wide variety of soil types and light conditions. Depending on where you place your plant and how much light it gets, you might have different size & colored leaves, but your Arboricola will love you just the same! During the winter watch the moisture levels and mist as needed. One tip is to place the pot on a tray of river rocks.

Winter Birding: The Importance of Food

 

In Massachusetts, winter is a difficult time for birds. Days are often windy and cold; nights are long and even colder. Lush vegetation has withered or been consumed, and most insects have died or become dormant. During these extremely cold days, finding food can be especially difficult. They cannot forage as easily for food when snow accumulates or temperatures drop to freezing. Some birds remain in the same location year-round and benefit greatly from the extra food sources offered by backyard feeders. These birds require high calorie and oil rich foods to survive our winter.

During spring and summer, most songbirds eat insects and spiders, which are highly nutritious, abundant, and, for the most part, easily captured. During fall and winter, nonmigratory songbirds shift their diets to fruits and seeds to survive. This is the time of year when bird feeding enthusiasts roll out the welcome mat and set the table. The question is, what to serve to attract a diversity of birds? The answer is to provide a variety of food types.

In Massachusetts, we can expect to see the friendly Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, the spectacularly colored Northern Cardinal, all manner of Finch, Sparrows, Woodpeckers and Jays; for a comprehensive list, check out Mass Audubon’s website!

 

Which seed types should I provide?

Black-oil sunflower seeds attract the greatest number of species. These seeds have a high meat-to-shell ratio, they are nutritious and high in fat which is especially important in the winter months. Their small size and thin shells make them easy for small birds to handle and crack. Several studies, including the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Seed Preference Test, show that this high-energy food is the favorite of most birds that visit feeders. Striped sunflower seeds are popular with larger-beaked birds. These striped seeds are larger and have a thicker seed coat than black-oil sunflower.

Peanuts, and tree nuts like almonds, cashews, pecans and pistachios are enjoyed by Jays, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Carolina Wrens and Titmice. If you don’t want squirrels “going nuts” for these foods, try using a squirrel-resistant feeder.

Millet is a small round seed. It comes in white and red varieties; most birds prefer white proso millet over red. Nyjer®, or thistle seed, is a delicacy for small Finches such as Goldfinches, Siskins, and Redpolls. Offering the small-sized, premium-priced Nyjer seeds in special Nyjer feeders will provide more value for your money. These feeders come in either a sock form with a small mesh fabric, or a tube feeder with tiny ports that prevent the seeds from spilling out. Finches will pull the seeds individually through the mesh or ports to enjoy them.

Birds’ feeding habits vary based on weather patterns and season. The best thing to do is experiment with seed and your backyard feeders. Take notes and photos for a personal sense of well-being and a great activity to do with kids!

lyric-cardinal_detail lyric-supreme

We love Lyric Bird Seed because of their superior ingredients that ensure our New England birds have their essential nutrients to thrive- especially in the winter months. A superior seed means you will attract the widest variety of birds around! All birding products are available in our Winchester, Falmouth, Tewksbury and Wayland stores. (Wayland is closed for the winter season and will re-open in March)

 

5 Winter Tips for Healthy Houseplants

1. AVOID OVERWATERING

It’s counterintuitive, but overwatering is the most common reason plants fail – particularly in the winter. Overwatering can cause browning of leaves, fungus, gnats, and dropping of leaves. Wait to water your houseplants until they become dry.  Test the soil with your finger. When the top inch is dry, then add water.
Nice Idea: Use the same watering vessel each time, so you know to add the same amount whenever you water.
Neat Idea: place a cork pad under your plant’s saucer. This will eliminate water stains on your carpet or hardwood floors.

2. CLEAN THE GREEN

Keep your leaves free of dust and grime this will keep your plants healthier – plus they’ll look better.  Take a half of a lemon and squeeze it into a quart of water using a soft cloth. Wet it with the lemon mix and wipe gently. Support the foliage using your other hand so you won’t bend or break the leaf.  Unless you live in a dust bowl, you’ll probably only have to do this once every six months or so.

3. FEEDING

Your houseplants need food during the winter, but less is more.  If your directions say 1 tablespoon or 1 scoop we recommend cutting that in half. Feed only once a month until spring. Personally I believe organic fertilizers are better for plants.
Who knew: Using filtered or bottled water will help eliminate dead ends. The minerals in tap water will settle to the ends of the leaves and cause the dead ends.

4. CHECK FOR PESTS

Keep an eye out for pests.  They usually will attack the new growth and also hide on the underside of the leaves and along the stem.  They are not harmful to humans and are easily able to control.  If you do discover pests grab yourself an organic insect spray. Lay out some plastic under the pot and start spraying at the bottom of the plant.
Spray the foliage on the underside and then on top, working your way up. Your treatments may take several applications 7 – 10 days apart.  The sooner you discover those pests, the easier it is to get under control, so check your plants often.

5. WAIT TO REPOT

If you feel your plant needs to be repotted into a bigger container, it’s best to wait to late winter or early spring. Longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures are more conducive to root expansion.  Choose a container that is 4 – 6 inches larger than the existing pot.  When choosing a pot the saucer is important. You want at least 2″ of space between the saucer edge and the bottom of the pot.

Video Look: Mahoney’s Florist Holiday 2017

 

Finish your holiday decorating with beautiful flowers from The Florist at Mahoney’s. Visit our full-service florist departments in our Winchester and Tewksbury stores to find cut flowers, beautiful arrangements, boxwood trees, and tabletop planters. From small teacher and host gifts to grand orchid planters and spectacular vase arrangements, we’ve got you covered! Order from our holiday collection here: http://mahoneysgarden.com/florist/seasonal/