One of the great joys of gardening, at least to me, is starting plants from seeds. There is just something about seeing those little sprouts start and then, later in the season, picking luscious, ripe fruit, wonderfully fragrant herbs or beautiful bouquets of flowers from those same plants.
I like to buy seeds for my vegetable garden and be able to start them early in my greenhouse, so that the plants are ready to put in the ground after the last chance of frost has passed. One thing you have to remember when buying packs of seeds and starting your plants is that you may wind up with many more plants than you realized. One year I bought packs of seeds for about 5 different kinds of tomatoes, just because I wanted to try all the different kinds. I was giving away tomato plants to anyone that would take them, as there was no way we would have room to plant them all and I still wound up with 2 rows of tomatoes in my garden. So, if you have friends that garden, get together and each of you buy different kinds and share the plants when you get ready to put them in the ground. Many vegetable seeds can be put directly in the ground when it is time, as they do not take as long to produce. Things like beans and peas. I have had good luck transplanting cucumber and squash plants that I started from seed, though. Some plants, like carrots, onions and cabbage, you can sow directly in the ground much earlier, as they like the cooler weather. Then, in the fall, I sow my collard seeds directly in the garden so they can grow all winter.
Another way I like to get seeds is from my existing plants and trees. I have successfully grown sweet shrub and red bud trees from seeds, and even some catalpa trees (as these are what I have in my yard). I don’t recommend sewing many of the catalpa seeds (they are VERY prolific), but they do make a nice large tree that grows relatively fast. I have also gathered seeds from my Four O’Clocks and other flowers in my yard, and they have done quite well. There are many plants and trees that produce seeds that are fertile. It is really fun to search my garden to see what I can propogate. Seeds from fruit are also an option. This year I am trying some apple trees from seeds. I know they will take a while to mature, but it is the fun of watching them grow that I enjoy.
To start my seeds I use a tray (the kind that comes under small pots of plants at the nursery), but any kind of shallow container with drainage holes will work. I line the tray with newspaper so the dirt doesn’t fall through. Then I fill the tray with potting soil to within about 3/4 of an inch from the top. I like to use a mixture that is 1 part potting soil with fertilizer (like Scotts Miracle-Gro or some other brand) and 2 parts plain potting soil ( I just buy whatever is the least expensive). You can also use all plain potting soil and add some time release fertilizer. I then spread my seeds out in the tray and cover with another light layer of soil. If I have large seeds (like squash or pumpkin), I will go ahead and fill my tray and then just push the seeds down in the soil and move the soil around a bit to cover them back up. Then just keep them moist until they sprout and water regularly after that. Once the plants are a few inches tall, you can replant them in the ground or in individual pots. For trees, I usually keep them in pots for at least a year, gradually increasing the size of the pot as the tree grows.
A few things to remember: 1. Always check your seed packets for the optimum times to plant. They will also usually tell you how many weeks ahead of putting the plants in the ground you should start the seeds. 2. Moisture is the key when first planting your seeds. You don’t want them to completely dry out, as they may not sprout. 3. The seeds will also need warmth and light to sprout. So you may need to start them inside in a sunny area if you don’t have a greenhouse. 4. Most of all, have fun and enjoy the fruits of your planting!
I know this is a long post, but there was a lot I wanted to tell you. I hope you will try starting some seeds and share your successes (and failures) with me. I would love to know what works and what doesn’t!
What are your favorite things to grow?