I’ve attempted to start seeds a few times without much luck. I have the same issues I hear others talk about in my Facebook group. Plants become leggy, they turn yellow after a few weeks, or they have difficulty hardening them off. I have decided I’m going to give it another try, and for all you gardeners who have wanted to start seeds indoors, we will learn together.
Why start seeds indoors? Saving money is one reason people often give, but there are other great reasons to learn this skill.
- Your local nursery generally carries what is popular in your area. Your see the same plants year after year. Starting your own seeds indoors opens your garden up to thousands of varieties that you may not have otherwise had. (And neither do your neighbors, lol). Just be sure you follow the rule that the unusual variety will grow in your gardening zone.
- Your local nursery generally get their plants in the spring and early summer. Since there is more than one gardening season, you may find it difficult to find the plants you want for fall planting.
- Watching plants grow from a seed to a beautiful flower or vegetable on your plate is very fulfilling and helps you learn more about that plant.
- Maybe most importantly to gardeners like me, it let’s you get started gardening way before that last spring frost! Nothing is better than tending to plants in the cold weather, and for some, while snow is on the ground.
But, before we get started, the first thing we need to find out is the date of our last frost where we live. Later, when you start looking at seed packets, you’ll notice it will tell you how many weeks before your last frost that you start your seeds and you will know when it is safe to plant outdoors. The Almanac has a page where you can enter your zip code and it will tell you when your last frost date is. Just click here. Frost Dates
The other question I often get is about the different type of seeds. Hybrid vs Open Pollinated vs Heirloom.
- Open Pollinated: Open pollinated seeds come from plants that have been pollinated naturally. Either by self pollination or bees, butterflies, birds, and other insects. These seeds will produce a plant that is very similar to the parent plant.
- Hybrid: Created when a plant breeder deliberately controls pollination by cross pollinating two different plants. They may choose two different plants for the size of the fruit they bear, their resistance to disease or plant vigor. This has provided the benefit of many of the disease resistant plants we see, and the seed packet often states this on the back. I recently saw a packet of snap dragons that stated it was resistant to rust, or southern varieties of plants such as kale have been bred to prevent or slow down bolting in summer heat. So, there is nothing wrong with buying hybrid seeds. Just know that at the end of the season, the seeds from that plant are not generally suitable for saving. They will not be true to the plant you just harvested. Examples of a hybrid tomato is the popular Big Boy and Early girl. You will need to buy new plants, or start new seeds the next year.
- Heirloom: An heirloom variety has to be 50 years old or older. It may have a history of being passed down from within a family or community for generations. All heirloom varieties are open pollinated but not all open pollinated are heirlooms.
- If you want to save the seeds from your plants at the end of the season, choose open pollinated or heirloom varieties.
Other things to consider when buying your seeds include:
- How much room do you REALLLY have, both inside for starting, and outdoors in your garden? Looking through seed catalogs at all the different varieties, can tempt you to try them all. But seed trays, shelves, and growing lights can take up a lot of space. The same thing in your garden. I am limited to several raised bed gardens. I can’t grow everything, so I have to decide which has the most value to me.
- Are the seeds you are choosing suitable for your growing zone? You don’t want to put all that time, energy, and money into a plant that you want be successful growing in the garden.
- And are they suitable for indoor seed starting? Not all are. Read the back of the packet under planting instructions. Many seeds do best planted directly in the ground. Everything going into my spring garden will be direct sown. Sugar snap peas, carrots, lettuce and spinach seeds will be go directly in the garden. Tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers are good choices for starting inside for planting in warm weather.
See you next time when we will talk about the right soil you need for starting your seeds.
Until Spring, keep dreaming!