Grow Your Own Plants What To Look For
People who have never gardened or those who haven’t in a while are now growing vegetables and herbs for fun, health, and economy.
- Garden for freshness and flavor. Most store-bought vegetables can’t match the flavor of homegrown. Vine-ripened tomatoes have fuller flavor, especially varieties for home gardens (not shipping types). Squash is without scratches. Leaf lettuce is perfectly crisp. Basil is fresh and aromatic. The list goes on.
- Save on your grocery bill. With so much good produce, you’ll make fewer trips to the grocery store. It’s not just a savings on what you grow, but it’s also what you don’t buy that helps you save. Saves gas, too.
- Minimize pesticide exposure. You can grow your own organic produce.
- Avoid tainted produce. When veggies are from your own garden, you can rest easy about recalls of tainted produce.
- Garden for exercise. Gardening incorporates many important elements of accepted exercise regimes, such as stretching and stance, repetition and movement, and even resistance principles similar to those in weight training. In general, gardening burns about 200 calories an hour!
- For your health. A diet rich in vegetables as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and may protect against certain cancers. Eating vegetables that are low in calories instead of other higher-calorie food helps cut total calories, too.
- It’s social. You’ll have a bounty to share with friends and neighbors. You may also have a chance to introduce a person to how food plants grow.
PROS AND CONS OF GROWING FROM SEED
Pros of Buying Seeds:
Variety– When buying plants from a local nursery, you will only have a couple of varieties to choose from. The great thing about seeds is that there are dozens upon dozens of different varieties to drool over. Red carrots, purple potatoes, black tomatoes… so many fun new options!
Cost– By far, seeds are way cheaper than plants. You can buy a pack of seeds for less than $2 and have over 100 seeds in the pack, as opposed to paying about $.50 per plant from the nursery.
Saving Seeds- If you are interested in saving seeds for the next years’ harvest, you need to plant heirloom varieties. Most nurseries will not carry many, if any heirlooms at all, so your best option is to buy heirloom seeds. Not only will your produce be tastier, you’ll only have to invest in seeds one time if you learn to save them properly.
Seed Swapping– Another great thing about having seeds is that you can swap varieties with a friend, or barter with a neighbor.
Less Dependence– Once you learn how to raise your own plants from seed, as well as saving seed from year to year, you’ll no longer depend upon somebody else to start your garden for you. There’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to raising your plants from seed, so learning now, before you depend on your garden for survival, is a really good idea.
Cons of Buying Seeds:
Time– Raising plants from seed takes several weeks of daily care before it’s time to transplant to the garden.
Space– When planting your entire garden from seedlings you started yourself, you must have somewhere to put all of those plants while they are germinating and growing. This can take up quite a lot of room, depending on how large your garden will be.
Equipment/Tools– When starting plants from seed, you’ll need containers to plant in, seed starting mix, a spray bottle to water the growing plants, trays to keep the containers in, and grow lights if you don’t have a south facing window, cold frame, or greenhouse.
Loss– You definitely take a chance at loosing plants when you raise them from seed. It’s a tender process. Too much water, too little light, a slip of the hand, a “helpful” or curious toddler… all of these things can kill a fragile seedling in a single day. Not to mention the delicate matter of hardening off your plants to get them used to being outdoors before transplanting. This has been one of the hardest things for me to do without killing plants.
Timing– Planting from seed requires that you know the right time to get your seedlings started. When to start your seeds depends upon your region, and whether the plants are a Spring, Summer, or Fall crop. Seeds need to be started several weeks either before the first frost, before the last frost, or after the last frost, depending on the variety. All of this needs to be taken into consideration to know the exact timing of when you should get your seeds started.
KNOWING AND PEPARING YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Preparing Your Planting Materials:
- Start your seed growing process by assembling all the materials you will need in your work area.
- You will need containers with provisions for drainage.
- This may be CLEAN plastic pots, trays, or peat trays.
- For the planting medium, I prefer to use a soil-less planting mix Because of its sterility and ease of use. (I use Sunshine Nix #4…)
- This can be purchased at any good nursery supply.
- If you are growing plants that require a constant temperature for germination, you might consider purchasing a waterproof soil heating cable or mat.
- These are normally factory set to keep your soil at 72 degrees but many also have variable thermostats. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions.
- If you are growing many kind of seeds at one time,
- It is also a good idea to use permanent ink on waterproof labels, and keep a log book.
- Fill your pots, packs or flats to within ¼” of the rim with your planting medium. Moisten the growing medium by placing the flat in a pan of room temperature water until it is thoroughly wet.
- Unless you are using a sterile planting mix, it is advisable to then redrench with solution of ½ teaspoon of Benomyl fungicide per gallon of water to prevent ‘damping off’ disease.
- Allow the excess water to drain from the pots/flats.
- Tamp them lightly to pack the medium and remove any air pockets. A Seed Starting Tray Filled with Potting Mix.
Special Requirements For Certain Seeds
- It is very important that you make sure that the seeds you plan to grow don’t have any special pre-sowing requirements before.
- Some seeds won’t germinate unless they are sown while fresh, or will only sprout in the dark or in the light.
- Other seeds may require soaking in room temperature water for a few hours.. or days.
- Seeds that require ‘stratification’ must be placed in a moistened rooting medium and kept in the freezer for a designated length of time
- Some seeds have hard seed hulls and may require scarification.
- Scarification involves scratching or nicking of a seed’s shell to facilitate germination.
- It is a good idea to do your sowing in stages so that in the event of disaster you have a second chance.
- Depending on the size of the seed you may have to create a seed ‘trench’ or punch a row of small holes with a dibble stick.
- The rows should be at least an inch apart. Planting depth is critical.
- A rough rule of thumb is that the planting depth is one or two times the diameter of the seed.
- Most very fine seeds should not be covered at all, nor should seeds that require light for germination.
- Pelleted seeds should not be covered. Merely press them into the surface of the soil mix.
- Refer to our Plant Care directories, or the seed package for this information as well as other requirements.
- You are now ready to sow your seeds.