It’s official. Doubly official, in fact. First, a crocus popped up in the front lawn. These are species crocus that usually come up in February, not March, but it is a like a teenager who gets home three hours after curfew: You should be angry but you’re just glad they made it home.
These thumbnail sized blossoms are not the larger Dutch hybrid crocus, but they bloom much earlier. In a garden situation, they multiply and despite their diminutive size, form a large mass of color. But I have always planted a few in the lawn, where they don’t form clumps but shine like gems in the greening grass.
Species crocus are one of the very few bulbs you can plant in lawns.
Bulbs need to grow leaves and absorb sun to prepare for the next season. Most are either too large or too late and the leaves get lopped off with the first mowing. Species crocus don’t.
Second, seed-starting soil mix has appeared in stores. Today I planted my first seeds, Chinese cabbage. For reasons I have never understood, retail seed racks rarely if ever have Chinese cabbage seeds. Fortunately I had some left over from last year’s mail order.
Many seeds will last for years if stored cool and dry. A few, like corn and onions, are pretty much useless the second year. Chinese cabbage is somewhere in the middle. Some seeds will germinate, others not. So instead of planting two seeds in each cell of the six pack, I put in half a dozen.
Seed-starting soil mix is notoriously hard to wet. I fill a six pack and set it in a shallow pan of warm water overnight. Or you can pour a cup or two of hot water directly into the bag the night before. Or if I forget to do either in a timely manner, I put the amount of dry soil in a grocery bag, add hot water, and kneed it like bread. Plastic, not paper.
I always keep a small quantity of dry soil which I use to cover the planted seeds ever so slightly. The lighter color lets me see that the entire top of the cell is covered. Tamp them down lightly with your knuckles.
Years ago I got a heat mat, and it is one of the best investments I have ever made. Most seed flats go on the heat mat, where they germinate better and faster than on a windowsill. But not the Chinese cabbage. They like it cool, which is room temperature here.
Chinese cabbage is my very favorite vegetable. An inch-thick slab smothered with French dressing and a diced egg is a delicious meal in itself. But to be honest, it is very fussy to grow. It likes cool temperatures, and a brief hot spell in spring will cause it to bolt. I have about a 50% percent success rate with spring crops, but it tastes so good that it is worth the risk. It is more reliable planted in September for a fall harvest.
The planting routine for species crocus in the lawn is considerably easier and more reliable. Poke a shallow hole in the grass and drop the small bulb in. That’s it for the next decade. Of course, you will need to wait until September to buy and plant the bulbs, but the way summers go, September will come almost overnight.