Q: I am having great fun sharing with friends the popping of the impatiens seed pods. Now what do I do with them? Let them dry and scatter in the spring? When is a good time?
A: You can easily save impatiens and other flower seed over the winter. All you have to do is to collect them and keep them cool and dry until spring. Pop some of the mature seed pods over a sheet of newspaper. Brush away the chaff and dry them on the paper for a week. Put the seeds in an envelope, label and place the envelope into a pint jar. Also put in the jar two tablespoons of dry milk powder wrapped in tissue. The milk powder absorbs any moisture in the jar after sealing. Screw the jar lid on tight and put in the back of a refrigerator drawer. They will be safe and sound all winter.
In late April, sow the impatiens seeds on top of a flat of sterile seed-starting soil outdoors in a shady spot. Pat the seeds gently into the soil, don’t cover them – they need light in order to germinate. Water with a mister immediately and daily thereafter to keep the soil moist. Tiny seedlings will emerge in two weeks. Transplant the seedlings into your garden in late May.
You’ll notice that plenty of large, healthy annual flower plants are already available at nurseries when yours are just beginning to sprout. Your impatiens may not bloom until late June, while those your neighbors bought earlier at the nursery will be blooming the day they are planted. You can get around this situation by starting seeds indoors under fluorescent lights in March. Plans for an inexpensive light stand are available at www.griffin.peachnet.edu/ggarden/PortPVC.pdf.