Waiting for Spring Weather

It’s been a cold start to April here in New Jersey. We had another snowstorm the morning after Easter, and my peas, spinach, lettuce and beets have yet to be planted! In the meantime, I ordered some milkweed seeds with the intent of planting them outside for the Monarchs. On the advice of my dad who’s been planting milkweed for the past few years, I decided to try out cold-stratifying them first. Cold-stratification attempts to mimic the condition of the seeds being outside during the chilly winter months and can help with germination and breaking them out of dormancy. I ordered two types of milkweed seeds, A. Tuberosa (commonly known as Butterfly Weed) and Ascepias Incarnata (otherwise known as Swamp Milkweed). Both species have colorful blossoms, and most importantly are a food source for Monarch Caterpillars. They’re also native to the Northeastern United States, as well as many other areas of the country according to the USDA Plants Database.

Perfect!

I used coffee filters to wrap the seeds in. While many people use plastic sandwich bags to store the wrapped seeds, I decided to see how some clean little 4 oz jam jars leftover from canning would work instead. I ran the coffee filters under cool water…

…..then squeezed out the excess until they were just damp. 

I laid the dampened coffee filters out in front of the labeled jars and spread a packet of seeds out in each one. 

Then I folded them up, careful to make sure that all the seeds were covered and tucked inside. 

After that, into the fridge they went! They’ll literally chill out in there until the average last-frost date has passed. That’s May 2nd for our location in New Jersey according to the The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Afterwards the plan is to direct-sow them right into the ground. The Butterfly Weed will go next to the wildflower patch, and the Swamp Milkweed will go into an area of our yard that tends to be wetter. We’ll see how they grow!

Even though winter seems to have had trouble letting go around here, there still are some signs that we are beyond the Spring Equinox. The days are longer, and the Bluebirds have been flitting around the yard, assumedly a little confused by the late snow and as ready as we are for winter to loosen its grip.  Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that the Bluebirds have stuck around here, occasionally making an appearance flying together in a flock of six or so. When Spring arrives, they become more visible and active in the yard as they begin to build their nests and pair off. Somewhere over the years I read that these little songbirds like to nest overlooking fields facing the East. That’s exactly where we placed our nesting boxes, and consistently have Bluebirds families each year, along with tree swallows. 

 

 Looking forward to planting season and hoping that the mild weather forecasted for the end of this week comes to fruition! The next post or two will hopefully include the start of some garden greens and maybe the beginnings of a Bluebird family! Happy Spring!

Mother Earth Gardener
Mother Earth Gardener
Expert advice on all aspects of growing.