At Stone Acres, head gardener Chris Careb finds that a little Yankee ingenuity pays off when growing a historic garden from seed—at minimal cost. Chris Careb takes the slow-but-sure route to growing the heirlooms at Stone Acres: Rather than spend precious time and resources driving around the countryside randomly seeking bygone plants at nurseries, he […]
By Tovah Martin
Sep 09 2015
Rose Campion & FoxglovePhoto Credit : Kindra Clineff
At Stone Acres, head gardener Chris Careb finds that a little Yankee ingenuity pays off when growing a historic garden from seed—at minimal cost.
Chris Careb takes the slow-but-sure route to growing the heirlooms at Stone Acres: Rather than spend precious time and resources driving around the countryside randomly seeking bygone plants at nurseries, he simply sows seeds. Not only does that give him access to sometimes-arcane plants from the past, but it also helps him fill the garden on a meager budget. For half the price of a single plant, he can produce dozens of pots overflowing with fillers. Nobody had to suggest the seed route to Chris Careb—he’s just your typical frugal Yankee.
So, when other gardeners are climbing the walls with cabin fever, Chris Careb is sowing his begonias and tucking perennial seeds, such as dianthus, columbine, and lupines, into the freezer to trick them into the fast track toward germination; delphinium does time in the refrigerator. How does he know the duration of the big chill? Simple: He reads the seed packets. And while the perennials are chilling out, he’s starting the annuals.
Ultimately, Chris sows all the seeds—annual and perennial—by the same method. Using a soilless mix, he sows seeds directly in cell packs to save one transplanting step. He sprinkles the seeds lightly on the soil surface, covers them with vermiculite, spritzes them with a mister, and labels each variety. And the labels are an excuse to exercise New England frugality, too. Rather than investing in pricey labels, he has a nifty solution: “Used venetian blinds. Friends save them for me and I cut them into six-inch strips.”
Then, more recycling: To raise the humidity and diminish the amount of time spent spritzing, Chris uses plastic dry-cleaning bags to make tents, supported by the venetian-blind strips. Voilà—
a makeshift greenhouse.
When the seedlings are ready, he transplants them into four-inch pots before they take up their positions in the garden. Thanks to a few dozen packets of relatively inexpensive seeds, Chris achieves the same fervor and flavor as yesterday.
CHRIS’S FAVORITE PLANTS TO GROW FROM SEED:
Select Seeds: Union, CT. 800-684-0395; selectseeds.com
Johnny’s Selected Seeds: Winslow, ME. 877-564-6697; johnnyseeds.com
Stokes Seeds: Buffalo, NY. 800-396-9238; stokesseeds.com