Why and when to start plants from seeds
Updated: Jan 24
Being a gardener means that you are always looking for ways to be more cost effective. After all that is one of the reason you garden, right? Organic produce from the grocery store can be expensive. Growing your own can be cheaper, but you have to be mindful of how you spend your money.
One of the best ways you can save money gardening is starting your own plants from seeds. A pack of 250 onion seeds cost around $3, where as 50 onion seedlings cost between $5-15. One tomato plant at the garden center cost $3 or more, where as a pack of over 25 tomato seeds cost the same amount. A six pack of lettuce plants are over $4 where as you can buy a packet of 1,000 lettuce seeds can be purchased for $2-6. The savings add up quickly when you grow from seed!
The taste of fresh garden grown vegetable and fruit does not compare to anything you can buy from the grocery store. For example, I didn't care for asparagus or okra until I grew my own and now I love them. Fresh okra right off a plant is delicious. Still a bit slimy, but so good!
The best reason in my opinion why we should grow our own food is for the variety of veggies and fruit you can try. Grocery stores only carry fraction of what is available for you to grow. A quick google search shows that there are over 10,000 tomato cultivars! We might be lucky to find maybe 10 different varieties at a grocery store. There are over 40 varieties of carrots that come in different colors. I didn't know their were purple carrots until I saw them in a seed catalog. There are 130 different varieties of green beans! There are many wonderful edible flowers too! Can you tell I love looking at seed catalogs?
Now lets talk about the when to plant a garden.
There are few things you need to figure out before you sow your first seeds.
First, you need to find out what zone your garden is in. Click on the link below, type in your zip code and it will tell you the zone. Knowing your zone is important because it tells you how many growing days you have and this information will help you pick the right variety for your climate.
Next, find out what your last and first frost dates are. Frost dates are important to know so you don't plant out too early or too late. Click on the link below and enter your zip code and it will tell you that information.
Next, is to figure out when to start the seeds. Some seeds germinate super quick like bok choi and tatsoi, which take 2 days. Others like, carrots take almost 2 weeks to show their pretty face.
Here is the best resource I've found for when to start plants for spring and fall planting. This works best on a computer. Click on the "Spring vegetable schedule calculator" and open the excel spreadsheet. Click on "Edit Document" on the right upper corner. This will allow you to change the last frost date. Enter your last frost date in the column, hit enter and it will tell you exactly when to start seeds indoors, when to direct seed and when to plant your transplants in the garden. The same link also has the Fall seed calculator. Use the same steps mentioned above.
Now that you have that information in hand, its time to think about the yummy veggies and fruits you want to grow!
When you are looking at the racks full of seed packets at the plant nursery or the pictures of beautiful veggies in seed catalogs, think of one question "what does my family like to eat?"
Grow the things you eat and enjoy. I mean that's what you spend your money on at the grocery store so why not start there? Its fine to try to grow one or two vegetables that you have never tried but don't go overboard. Start with what you love to eat and add one or two new vegetables to try.
When you are picking out the seeds to grow, note the days to maturity. Days to maturity is the number of days it takes that seed to go from germination to bearing fruit/veggie. So, If you're in zone 5 and you only have 90 days of growing time, don't buy corn variety that takes 120 days to mature. This information is printed on the seed packet.
I've found that the seeds that are sold in your local garden center are usually well suited for your climate/growing zone. But, its a good idea to read the information on the label anyway.
When I first started gardening I didn't know much and made many mistakes. That's what gardening is all about, making mistakes and learning from them.
I am planning to do a separate post that will show you how to plant those seeds with directly in the ground or in pots to start as transplants.