How to Grow Plants from Seed: Understand the Appropriate Systems for Growing Seeds

Seed catalogs are a great way to find new plants to try your hand at. Although it may seem intimidating to grow a flower from only a seed, flower seeds are programmed to grow. Just remember that some types of flower seeds are best sown directly in the garden, where-as others are best started indoors and transplanting out once the weather warms. One great thing about starting seeds indoors is that it gives you an early start on the season and allows you to try more varieties from free seed catalogs than what is available locally.

When you first purchase flower seeds from seed catalogs that are often free, look for high quality seeds packaged for the current year. Be sure to store them correctly once they arrive. Once the seeds are in your hands, choose containers based on your needs and preferences and be sure to thoroughly clean these posts before reusing them. For a starting group of seedlings, make sure these pots have drainage holes.

When starting flower seeds it’s important to use a sterile soil-less mix that is about one part milled peat moss and one part vermiculite with some perlite. Don’t use a mix containing topsoil or compost. Once you have all this together, you’re ready to plant your brand new seeds and watch them grow. Just remember to label seeds with the variety and date sown – it’s a great way to keep track.

Springtime Dreams from Seed

Why should you bother starting your own plants from seed when life is so busy and the local greenhouse is just a short drive away?

For me, seed starting is a winter ritual I simply can’t live without. When the seed catalogs begin arriving there’s usually several feet of snow on the ground, it’s dark by 4:30 PM, and night-time temperatures are often well below zero. The world around me is colorless and frozen solid. Evening after evening I page through the catalogs; those seductive photos and alluring decriptions keep me going. Folding down corners and making lists, I can spend hours lost in the dream of next year’s garden.

Get your orders in early

I usually get my seed orders in by the end of January, because when early March rolls around, it’s time to start snapdragons, leeks, onions, and other plants that need a full 12 weeks under lights. Each Saturday afternoon, I head to the basement with another batch of seed packets and the boom box. My seed starting rig is pretty low-tech: a big tray on top of the washing machine next to the sink, and an old dish-washing tub for moistening the growing mix. The fragrance of moist soil is my mid-winter prozac.

Supporting My Habit

There are plenty more reasons why I start my own plants from seed. To say that one of them is about saving money sounds silly when a six pack costs about $2.00. But my gardening habit is a large and very expensive one. I discovered just how expensive a couple years ago when I had a fire in my greenhouse. I lost everything, and buying just half the plants I was accustomed to having set me back more than $350.

For example, I require at least six flats of white alyssum. It’s weatherproof, pestproof, non-invasive, frost-hardy, and smells wonderful. At the local greenhouse six flats of alyssum would cost me about $180. Yet a 1/4 oz packet of my favorite alyssum variety ‘Snow Cloth Select’ is only $4.50 and it’s usually enough seed for two years. For my cutting garden, I need at least 200 plants. I also need several flats of special annuals to tuck into the perennial gardens, and of course all the tomato, pepper, broccoli, cucumber, lettuce and herb plants for the vegetable garden. By early June, I’ve usually planted at least 30 flats of seedlings. At $20 per flat that’s about $600 worth of plants. A little time in the basement during March and April allows me to be extravagant in May and June.

Try Out Newest Colors and Forms

I’ll mention just one more reason for starting your own plants from seed, and that’s variety. I’m one of those gardeners who has to try everything at least once. Exotic basils, pink eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, twenty kinds of lettuce (the Cook’s Garden offers over fifty varieties!), bush morning glories (I love ‘Royal Ensign’), annual phlox and whatever else catches my eye in this year’s magazines and seed catalogs.

So if you’re looking for me on a Saturday afternoon from mid March until the end of April, look in the basement. I’ll be elbow deep in wet germinating mix and thinking about the colors, scents, textures, and flavors of next year’s garden.