Five great reasons to start your garden from seed

By Lynette L. Walther | Mar 22, 2019
Photo by: Lynette L. Walther On warm days the seedling flats come out to grow and “toughen up” in the sunshine.

Spring fever is running high, and the only cure is to get something growing. Are you ready to swoon over drifts of flowers? Perhaps you dream of bountiful harvests of vegetables or berries. Whatever growing thing is in your future, one of the best places to start is with a pack of seeds, and there are good reasons why that is true.

Households spend an average of $70 a year on their gardens. With a yield of about a half-pound of produce per square foot, an average 600-square-foot garden can produce 300 pounds of produce worth $600 or more.

No. 1 — More choice

Just think of the 562 varieties of peppers, 365 lettuces, 853 tomato varieties and literally thousands of varieties of flowers and herbs. Sure, garden centers will have some of each, but nothing compared to what you can choose from if you start with seeds. Just try to find the highly-rated Carmello tomato or one of the great new container tomatoes or the sweet Italian Topepo or ground cherries. Same goes for flowers: good luck locating bells of Ireland, love-in-a-mist or evening scented four o’clocks. But seeds can get you there.

No. 2 — Control quality

Even purchased seedlings can disappoint. According to the Home Garden Seed Association, seedlings that have dried out at some point or become root-bound will not perform well in your garden. But if you grow your own, you can control the quality because you will know they have been well cared-for until the time is right for planting them outside, and even more importantly, that they have been grown without unwanted chemicals.

No. 3 — It is easier

It is a fact that many plant varieties are more successful when grown from seed, including some sown directly in the garden. In that group are root vegetables, herbs in the carrot family, such as cilantro and dill, baby salad greens of any variety, and flowers that are sown very early in the season, such as larkspur, sweet peas, nasturtiums, poppies and cosmos.

Many seeds are best grown in flats or six packs and then transplanted into the garden when the soil and temperatures warm up. Starting many selections indoors early gives us a jumpstart on the growing season. Try squash, melons, beans, lettuces, spinach, kale, even corn and flowers such as sunflowers, zinnias, nasturtiums, marigolds, cleome, celosias and amaranth. Herbs such as basil, parsley and cilantro can be started indoors. In addition, by starting seeds indoors you avoid having chipmunks or squirrels digging them up.

No. 4 — Save money

Imagine a swath of blooming poppies or cosmos — if you plant seeds they can be yours for pennies each. An entire package of zinnias, sunflowers or sweet peas often can be purchased for the same price or less than a six pack of seedlings or some single seedlings.

Growing a vegetable garden from seed can feed a family all season for a fraction of the cost of produce from the grocery or a local grower. There’s an added advantage with seeds over buying seedling plants, and that is you will be able to sow succession plantings of green beans, greens and other crops for second harvests.

No. 5 — It is fun

Name one thing that delivers the magic, feeling of independence and power of watching seeds germinate and grow into healthy seedlings. It can connect you to nature even as frigid weather and a foot of snow may confine you to the indoors. So, what are you waiting for? Time to hit the shelves and select a bounty of seeds.

To start seeds indoors, use a sterile commercial potting mix that will enable you to produce healthy seedlings. Start small seeds in flats with the soil mix moistened to the consistency of a wrung-out sponge. Small seeds can be scattered on the soil and covered to the depth indicated on the seed package. Provide plenty of light.

Once the little seedlings have developed their first true leaves, separate and plant one to each six-pack cell. The little plants will develop root systems. Larger seeds can be sown in six-pack cells, one to a cell or small pot planted to the depth indicated on the seed package. Water as necessary throughout the growing process, allowing containers to drain completely so that they are not sitting in water. Do not allow planters to dry out completely. Begin feeding seedlings with a half-strength solution of liquid fertilizer mixed with water when they have developed two sets of leaves.

When the soil and temperatures have warmed up and the seedling plants have developed leaves and sufficient root systems, they can be planted in the garden, spaced according to seed package recommendations. I guess the only question left is: Why not grow your garden from seed?

Take note: Grow your own seeds for things like beans which can be harvested at the end of the growing season. Allow them to fully develop, turn brown and dry on the plants before harvesting. (Photo by: Lynette L. Walther)
Seed packages, plant and seedling tags have lots of important cultivation information, like planting depths and distances, number of days to harvest and more. (Photo by: Lynette L. Walther)
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