Unsolicited Advice from Strangers- is it just me?

fixerupperinnh(5)March 29, 2012

I was in the grocery store and they had a rack of seeds out, so I stopped to take a look just to see if they had anythin g different. This woman walks behind me and says, "Be sure to wait until Mother's Day!" It took me a moment to realize what she meant. I told her I was winter sowing. She looked at me like I had said I was from outer space.

This isn't the first time. I've had several people who seemed to think I was totally clueless just because I shop for seeds early. Same with potting soil. I don't get that. People do still have house plants. Even though this is my first year WS, I've always bought seeds early to make sure I get what I want. Anyone else find strangers suddenly "helpful" during the WS season?

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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I think it's just shared excitement about gardening. Those helpful people are just so happy to see some one who might share their enthusiasm about growing things, rather than thinking they're crazy, that they want to communicate in any way they can. They want to help you, if you are new to gardening. They know you don't have to take their advice. You could even thank them for the suggestion, but explain that you like to shop early or even take time to explain wintersowing to them. I've struck up many a friendly conversation in the grocery aisle with just such an innocuous comment. And if you're in a hurry, just smile and say thank-you and ignore the advice. Then everybody's happy.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 10:02AM
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bookjunky4life(5 Central IL)

They aren't trying to be helpful. They are trying to be know-it-alls and don't care if they are rude. I know a person or two like this. I, for one, very rarely like it when strangers talk to me. Once in a great while, but when I'm shopping, I'm there to shop, not to socialiaze. And its offensive for a complete stranger to assume I don't know what I'm doing. I don't mind so much strangers asking for advice but don't giving it unsolicited.

Same when I'm working in the yard or garden. Family and neighbors should know by now that I might wave, if I'm not tilling or push mowing and need both hands, but I'm not stopping to talk to you. I'm too busy. I work outside literally from like 5:10 pm when I get home from work until dark around 7:45 pm and then usually another hour up around the light from the shed. I even bought a headlamp last summer so I could work in the dark but it disappeared. Daylight and dry dirt are precious commodities.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 10:12AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

I'm not that sensitive to what other people might offer as way of advice. Something to consider, that woman in the grocery store who spoke to you? She may live alone, and her social contact for the day a trip to the store. If a smile and thank you for advice I don't intend to follow from someone I may never see again makes her day a little better...fine with me.

A smile is cheap enough to give, could be invaluable on the receiving end.

Now ask me how I feel about strangers standing too close or crowding me in a store, and you'll get different answer :)

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 11:47AM
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beachgrub(4 northern michigan)

I don't mind the comments from strangers as much as the ones from my "helpful" neighbor. My milk jugs have apparently caused her much stress this year! Lol i get alot of tongue clicking and the arms crossed eyebrows raised looks. My yard is immaculate, my gardens are healthy, my grass is green and even the jugs are lined up and orderly and yet she continues to give me helpful hints about gardening. Huh, funny thing, the only "flowers" she has are dandelions and those tall orange lillies that are now crossing the property line and entering my garden.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 1:17PM
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Regarding neighbors, by now, they know that I don't ignore them, I simply, like bookjunkie4life, don't have time. By now, after seeing my garden for last two years since I've started WSing, no one dare to make any comments.

Regarding unsolicited advice from strangers - in Jan/Feb, Menards had seeds for 10 cents. Mostly popular annuals but quite a collection. I've got a lot! But in the store, one lady told me not to buy since NOTHING had germinated for her last year. Didn't have a chance to ask if she WSed and, really, I was not ready for "funny faces". Needles to say, EVERYTHING sprouted and is growing like crazy. Now, I'm nervous about the weather.

Regarding buying potting mix in the middle of winter (this one is the best). Last year, I've discovered ProMix in Menards. In the middle of winter, I had to go outside and got frozen mix. I've received a lot of "strange looks" and they were really strange, much stranger then just the fact that a crazy women is buying mix in the middle of the winter. Once I've got home, I found out that ProMix is The Potting Mix for marihuana growers. This, plus high electricity bill and constant light in the basement (last year I was still doing lights), according to my teenage son was enough for an unexpected visit from low enforcement agency (didn't happen...)

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 3:32PM
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LOL adamark.

The first four or five years of the Mid Atlantic Garden web forum's spring swap, we had the police show up because 60-70 people pulling into parking lots or yards, throwing open car trunks and exchanging green growing plants was enough to provoke suspicion. Happily each time it happened at least one of the police officers either was a gardener or had a spouse who was a gardener. We loaded their trunk up with plants too.

And I remember when I was still starting plants under lights. I had a plastic shelf unit with fluorescent strips tied to the shelf undersides and aluminum foil sheets draped over the lights to concentrate the light. When I realized what it looked like, I had a college dorm flashback.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 4:39PM
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I still sometimes have people look at me like I'm from Mars when I tell them about WSing, usually after they make an 'off' comment. I just whip out my business card with the URL and hand it to them, and say, if you drop by the website don't forget to request the free seeds. Which means they'll go through the learning quizzes and get the gist of the WS info and what the website is all about, then they get the address for the seed.

Winter Sowing is everywhere on the internet, there are garden forums and blogs with Winter Sowers. People post about it frequently. All you have to do is type Winter Sowing into a search engine and you find a gazillion hits.

But, the information is 'born digital'. There are still many people who don't have a computer, or don't bother to use it for research or social networking--in my experience, this population is mostly senior citizens. So, you will encounter people who haven't yet heard about WS. Reaching out to local master gardeners and getting them interested is a great way to have the off-the-net folks learn. I've done courses at the local arboretum and continuing ed--that's helpful but it reaches only the local population. Many of the folk who attend these courses are retirees. Seniors are difficult to teach, they don't like changing what they've done all their lives and can be resentful when you tell them that there is a new method which they might find better than what they've done all their lives. WALL SOLID WALL That's what you get, it's hard to teach people who resent learning anything new because they feel they don't need to. Mostly you find it with seniors, and you also encounter the wall with ideologues, ie: their way or no way. I once came across a master gardener who taught sowing under lights, I thought if looks could kill he would have incinerated me in a heartbeat. Oh well, you can't win them all.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 6:37PM
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I'm sure the woman was, as Martha says, just sharing in the excitement of spring. People in general are friendly, and there's nothing wrong with strangers stopping to chat in the supermarket.

As far as winter sowing, I don't attempt to tell anyone about that in a store setting, or in a situation where there's no time for a real conversation. There's too much explanation to go into if you are having a passing meeting in an aisle with a stranger. If someone does say something about me buying soil - which, to be honest, no one really has because after all, it's in the stores and people who start seeds indoors or have houseplants buy it now too - I just smile and carry on. It does get a bit stranger when the soil is frozen, lol, but I've had enough experience, thanks to my procrastination, in buying frozen mulch in December to deal with the frozen soil comments!

I absolutely love when people walk by in the neighborhod and stop to talk. Nothing I'm doing in the garden is more important that sharing some conversation with a neighbor, even if it's someone I never met. Some just say a few words and keep walking, others stay and talk for quite some time, especially if they are gardeners themselves. That human bond is important, IMO; any plant will still be there when they walk away. And it's even more fun if they are gardeners!


    Bookmark   March 29, 2012 at 7:15PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I"ve been thinking about this thread a bit. I remember when I was a young mom and got a chance to escape the house and kids for a trip to the grocery store BY MYSELF! It was a rare break, and the only thing that could make it any more perfect was a chance to have a GROWN UP conversation! And Morz8 is very insightful to think that many older folk at the store are headed back home to an empty house with only memories of spouse and kids. I'm a family doc, and there are folk who will make up an illness just to have an excuse to visit the friendly folk at the doctor's office. Human beings crave company. We are social creatures. I think it's strange that anyone could be in a place with so many other people and not at least greet some one with a smile.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 6:37AM
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bookjunky4life(5 Central IL)

I'm probably on the younger side of the population on this forum and I work in customer service position. I see the not-so-nice side of people 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week. I'm also not overly social by nature. In fact, I was incredibly shy up to about age 18. So, when my work day or week is over, I just want some alone time. Lest you think I'm some cold, nasty person in public, I am the one holding doors open for people, putting my cart away, not standing in the middle of the aisle talking at Walmart and blocking traffic. I am the kind and considerate one in those ways and don't always mind a stranger talking to me. Its how they go about it. If I was looking at seeds and someone was presumptuous enough to say to me that I HAVE to wait until May to plant those. That's either someone who didn't fully think out their approach in striking up stranger conversation or someone who believes they know-it-all without knowing your situation at all. A polite and non presumptuous way to start that conversation might be "oh, do you have a garden, too?" or "I just can't decide what I want to buy this year." The approach is 80% of how I receive strangers talking to me. And I will say that older people (men and women) are definitely the ones most often starting this sort of conversation. Older men tend to think they are saying funny things but most people I've talked to think they come off crass and rude.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 10:11AM
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bookjunky, I also work the public all day, and to some extent you are right (the comment about the older men thinking they are funny is spot on, lol!) There are times I just don't want to go to work not because I am sick, or not because I am too tired to *work*, but because I am too darn tired to be *nice*!! It takes a whole lot of energy to be nice! To smile when you are tired or distracted, or to say hello with a cheery voice when you would rather the person just went away, lol. And let's face it, people who work with the public have to pretend like they don't have a life - they have to be friendly and helpful and do it all with a smile, even if their car broke down on the way to work, or their child is sick, or their toilet is overflowing back at home, or if they are in pain or discomfort from a chronic illness, or if after work they have to take a family member to chemo. The public doesn't care - they just expect service with a smile.

That being said, I still believe in the basic goodness of people. My job brings me into contact with many of the same people on an on-going basis, so I see the same faces weekly or even daily, and I've learned not to go by first impressions. It's actually surprising how some of the people who I thought were rude and boorish are actually quite nice and compassionate and kind; I must have just caught them the first time on a bad day. Or, as you point out, they may lack social skills, which comes off as rudeness on the first encounter, but then you realize they don't mean to be rude. We are all different and I think we have to have a tolerance for those differences, especially because just as that person doesn't know what my life is like, I don't know what they have been through or are going through. So I try to keep that in mind when someone is rude, and try to be patient. Doesn't always work for me, but I try!

Of course, the down side to my job is that some people just AREN'T nice, and I still have to see them often! But the good ones make up for that!

I too believe we are social beings - we just don't all have the same level of social skills. I've actually had people walk right by me, a few feet away, as I garden in the front yard, and not say a word! I can't believe it. I realize that sometimes they don't answer my hello because of the ever-present earphones nowadays, but come on - they SEE me, how about at least a smile? How can they walk by someone and just ignore them? That's just beyond me.

As far as the age difference, I think the difference in social skills may be exaggerated to some small extent - I know many teenagers who are very sociable and can converse easily with adults - but I also think the rise in texting and technology has made it harder for lots of younger people to carry on face-to-face conversations, especially with strangers, while the older people come from a generation that talked more freely with strangers to begin with. Maybe they don't all converse well, lol, but more freely! And that's why they may start the conversations more. Maybe a bad analysis, but just a thought.

Interesting discussion!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 10:58AM
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As one of those people who might walk by you and not say hello. Trust me when I say, I don't see you. I am one of those people who is so bad about that. You could stand in front of me waving your hands, and I wouldn't notice. Its true, just ask my friends but it also makes it easy for people to scare the crap out of me. I've had people talk to me and I'm wondering, who, where is that voice coming from.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 12:33PM
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beachgrub(4 northern michigan)

....and then there's just those really annoying nosy neighbors!! Lol ok, that's for another subject posting altogether.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 12:40PM
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I have to say I have found myself useful three times in the seed area of Home Depot. Coupla Dads buying seeds for their kids --- frowning when buying the princess or sesame street variety of kid flowers. I handed them a seed pack of Incredible Sunflowers and Zinnias proceeded to talk about winter sowing in milkjugs. Guess the kids want to learn about them too. I was also surprised about the number of kids who wanted seed packs and the confused parents not knowing about the seeds themselves.

My biggest pet peeve in grocery is senior women who tell me to watch my pocketbook - believe me I am. They are usually interrupting a conversation I am having with a store associate which I really needed to do. I think this group must be preyed upon for wallets in stores.

Our grocery stores around here SEPA are so huge that most people look confused rather then having a discussion about anything. I am waiting for someone to put a theatre and roller skating rink in one of them someday - it does about everything else.

I was thinking the same thing this year that you are. If you want to wintersow now is the time to get those seeds rather than wait. Ditto with grabbing bags of soil. I am saving containers and putting them in bags in the shed.

Don't know why people are soooooo opinionated these days.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 1:10PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Statements like "people are social creatures" is not always true. The Meyer-Briggs personality test delineates extroverted and introverted personalities. From what I understand, the extrovert recharges their energy from being with people; the introvert, being alone.

I have always been somewhat introverted, but have become much more so as I get older. I would much rather be in the garden with the company of the birds, bees, butterflies, and the cat than around most people. I still enjoy quality time with people and a good discussion though!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 1:56PM
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LOL, mori1!! Yes, I think I have startled more than one walker as they passed by, just by calling out hello!


    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 1:58PM
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bookjunky4life(5 Central IL)

I admit to "not" seeing people at the store. However, if its obvious they saw me "not" see them, I will wave or say hi. Dee, you hit the nail on the head. It is very emotionally and even physically draining to intentionally be over the top social and nice, especially when I apparently on the introvert end of the spectrum, and I just cannot do it anymore sometimes. A couple of hours in town for grocery shopping, etc. will also drain me of most of my patience and energy. At times, I can be quite extroverted but generally introverted. Some customers I'll chat up about gardening probably more than they ever want to talk to me and others I only do the standard "hello" and "have a nice day." It entirely depends on the individual with me.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 2:37PM
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beachgrub(4 northern michigan)

I was out in the yard a week ago (ahhhh, those were the days) cleaning up leftover leaves from fall when i grabbed a bunch and got stung by a little bee wearing a camoflouge suit. Ok, so he wasn't in a suit but i didn't see him. So i muttered under my breath "basta#d" and a little old man who walks by my house everyday without saying a word just HAPPENS to be 5 feet away (apparently he shops at the same store as the bee) and i hadn't seen him coming. He stops and says "excuse me!?" Startled, i laughed and went on to explain the stealth little bee. Well, thats all it took, we stood there and talked for 20 minutes about gardens, bees, trees and this new camoflouge fad i was unaware of. Nice guy!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 2:59PM
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Oh, beachgrub, you are too funny! I love the way you told that little story! And I bet from now on that man will say hi to you every day.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 4:51PM
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I'm introvert so much so that I prefer to go the grocery store when others are asleep, like at 2 or 3 am. Of course there are store like HD or Lowes that I shop on days when there are least amount of people.
As far as neighbors are concern, I only talk to them if they talk to me first. They're not that bad but I hate starting conversations if I don't have to.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 5:07PM
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silverkelt(Z5b/Southern Maine)

I have bought items early and had similiar comments, even after years, my own parents still think it doesnt work, doesnt matter the years I showed them close to 500 containers , mostly green. I dont usually sow nearly that amount anymore, but a good 100 or so still, with annuals, veggies and a few perrenials.

I have no issue telling poeple about wintersowing, cursory, if they dont understand, and do not want to listen to the explanation, I say, go to wintersown.org, or search google for gardenweb/wintersowing.

A few may say.. dont the seeds rot, simple answer is no, do the seeds rot for the thousands of plants that self sow themselves? In essense, the whole explanation is, you have a self contained system, with annuals,perrenials and veggies, herbs that will sprout when they should, with no hardening off.

Secondly sometimes you get questions like, well what about xxx plant, I just say, yes there are is a small percentage of plants that require later sowing, or inside sowing, depending on your climate, but its much smaller then the thousands you can actually sow.

But ya, some poeple just want to chat, some people just want to tell you your nuts and stop it.

Ive found most poeple dont even want to "garden" they want 10 plants they never have to water, plant , touch ect, most of the gardening nuts I know are either online, or a very small percantage ive met here.

Ive been hyrbizing daylilies for years now, and almost every person Ive met locally, still thinks daylilies are yellow or orange, and spread quickly and shouldnt be planted.

You explain those are species, 150 years removed from the daylilies you are playing with genetically speaking, Ive even fowarded daylily pictures to some friends, and they ask.. Whats that? you respond, a daylily, they say.. naw, your mistaken, that doesnt look like one to me.

My nieghbor is similiar, he planted some daylilies (plain old Hemerocallis fulva, he keeps calling them tiger lilies)

I tried once to discuss the diffrence, I think he looked at me strange, so now, I just take his compliment and move on, like Hey your garden looks good, "thanks" and I move on to kids and work related subjects. Not all of us have to like gardening, anybody who does seem interested, I love to discuss with them.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 8:42PM
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beachgrub(4 northern michigan)

I was out in the yard a week ago (ahhhh, those were the days) cleaning up leftover leaves from fall when i grabbed a bunch and got stung by a little bee wearing a camoflouge suit. Ok, so he wasn't in a suit but i didn't see him. So i muttered under my breath "basta#d" and a little old man who walks by my house everyday without saying a word just HAPPENS to be 5 feet away (apparently he shops at the same store as the bee) and i hadn't seen him coming. He stops and says "excuse me!?" Startled, i laughed and went on to explain the stealth little bee. Well, thats all it took, we stood there and talked for 20 minutes about gardens, bees, trees and this new camoflouge fad i was unaware of. Nice guy!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 9:51PM
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I think gardeners are generally a friendly bunch. I know that I will tell anyone who will listen NOT to plant goutweed. It's interesting to get the perspective of introverted people on this forum, but how can you tell if someone simply craves solitude versus someone who is a stuck-up snoot?

I used to have the best neighbors, the new ones go inside when I come outside and their yard looks a mess. I admit to giving unsolicited advice to strangers in the gardening area, but it is, imo, sound advice learned through years of experience.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 12:49AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Actually there is a really entertaining thread that is related to this topic over on the Favorites forum. It's an old and long thread.

Here is a link that might be useful: Do you get irritating comments from NON-gardeners?

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 1:28PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

Persons on forums, blogs and the like often say, as someone above, that gardeners are generally friendly.

Rule of thumb, ''generally friendly'' perhaps, but there are some that are just cranks. Try to ask about a pesticide here and some organic/natural/local advocate may flame you.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 2:08PM
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The weird looks I get are bad enough. Although one of the clerks I see often is now asking questions about winter sowing.

My biggest issue is when I'm out with my son. We go through having to teach the kids not to talk to strangers for their safety and then people will come up to us in the store and start talking to my son. And I usually let it go if it's just a little thing, but if the questions get too personal or I get uncomfortable and I try to politely get out of it, I get weird looks. Everyone out there knows that kids should be taught not to talk to strangers so why is it such a big deal if I don't want them chatting up my kid?

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 3:29PM
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My grandmother is one of those old people that Morz8 talked about. She's 95 and lost my grandfather about a year ago. She doesn't drive and lives alone, so when someone takes her to the grocery store or whatever she relishes the contact with the outside world.

I'm kind of an introvert in that I need alone time to recharge, but only rarely do I find it annoying when a stranger strikes up a conversation. And I've actually received some decent advice when I'm standing there intently studying one thing vs. another trying to decide.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 6:13AM
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This has been a really intersting thread. For me, it depends on where I am. If I'm in a grocery store, I wouldn't smile or talk if someone paid me. I just want to get out of there! But book stores? I have trouble leaving and have had some really nice conversations with folks.

I am amazed at how many people are suprised when you say HI.

fixerupper - my daughter is facing the same problem with her kids. They are 4 and 18 months and while she wants them to learn to be friendly and polite, she still is a little leery of people chatting up the girls. Of course, at this age, they don't get too far away from her, but she is still careful.

Great thread!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 9:24AM
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beach- that was a hilarious story!
I don't mind talking to people in the garden center/seed racks; usually I end up sharing basic WS info with them. The typical ice-breaker question is usually something about my indoor setup, to which I straight away will clarify that I start everything OUTdoors. Then I simply give them a quick & dirty lesson before they start to glaze over that involves the bullet points of "I have no patience for an indoor setup, so I do everything outside in milk jugs... 3" of soil, close it up and toss it outside."
If they are intrigued, I'll go into more detail, but I really can't expect anything other than the same look you get when you try to 'reason' with a chihuahua. A look like I just grew a banana tree out the side of my head is about all I can expect most of the time.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 11:31AM
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silverkelt(Z5b/Southern Maine)

I have a indoor setup, but its exclusively used for daylily seedlings. I have used it in the past however for Tomatoes (Ive still done them both ways, inside and out, outside... clearly favors the hardening off process, much more healther starting plants, inside ='s lots more work to harden off and transplant shock issues ect, however if they make it, I can have tomatoes by end of july that way.

This year I didnt even bother, I wintersowed a few types only.

However.. Ive done petunies, salvias inside as well, mostly becuase salvias require almost no hardening off, but germinate faster and better for me inside and petunias becuase I wanted to have flowers in bloom before end of june.

However, normally I dont bother, it all depends on what I want and when I want something.

Wintersowing is just "EASIER" throw them into a jug, water it , mostly forget it till its ready. Frankly, the people who do ALL inside sowing just are creating SOOOO much more work for themselves.

I have argued this for years.. frankly I know master gardeners with just LOVELY gardens, but spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on plants that would cost them pennies otherwise. Thier answer to me is always the same.. I dont have patience, room, equipment to start all of those plants, some of them simply DO not believe you can do the following and just be done with it..

Ive also refinded my own process throughout the years.. gone is the double marking, #ing and taping. Ive found a great paint pen, Ive also gone from a exoknife to a sharp pocket knife, I can cut faster and easier with one.

Ive yet to lose a jug becuase of not taping it down, I just dont have the wind issue, maybe up to 50 mph here , rarely above that. So I no longer tape them.

The only times I lose jugs is if I wintersowed TOO early and had 100 inches of snow on top of them, I know always wait, other then a few items for end of Feb , start of march. I simply bypass that issue now.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 1:43PM
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moonphase(z7 Ga)

When I bought my house 8 yrs ago,the first thing I did was plant 60 green giants on 3 sides of my back yard.They are now maybe 20 ft. or more.It's wasn't because I don't like to talk and smile because I love people.I just like my privacy when I'm out gardening or entertaining and I love it.I will smile and talk to any one.Just the other day a young woman was in the spices hunting lemon zest.She finally asked me if I knew what it was and we both cracked up and had a good laugh when I told her it was lemon peel and she just needed a zester and a lemon.Same at the garden center,I get asked for advice alot and I ask and I don't think I've ever offended anyone by caring enough to smile or say hi.But that's me.I've been a hospice nurse for years and really know what a smile means.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 7:34PM
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