Raising Plants from Seed – Part 1

I originally published the following in Feb. of 2011. I’m re-publishing it now in preparation to continue the discussion of starting plants from seed.

The expense involved in gardening can be enough to make you question the wisdom of trying to grow your own vegetables (see $64 Tomato). 

Let’s set aside the argument that you can buy vegetables at the grocery store for less than what it ultimately costs you to grow them. (It’s true, but gardeners have many reasons other than price for growing them themselves.)

Besides, paying $2.50 for a 6-pack of indifferently cared-for seedlings may not be the wisest investment.

There is an alternative. You can start your own from seed.

You can buy a packet of seeds for the same amount (or less) that could grow dozens of plants. (Admittedly, this argument is weakened if you only want two or three plants.)

Note that I said could.

Let me confess up front that I’ve had mixed success growing plants from seed. Yet, the case for starting your own plants remains compelling:

  • You get to choose the varieties. While you can often find a few varieties as live plants, the number of varieties available from seed are often much larger.
  • The cost of a packet of seeds is usually less than a pack of 4-6 plants and can produce dozens of plants (or more).
  • You can buy the seed weeks or even months before the plants come available in the stores. This allows you to time your plantings around your local Last Date of Frost.

Furthermore, you are not limited to the selection of what is on the rack at your local garden center or big-box store. The major seed companies usually package their selections for large regions of the country and send them out to all the retailers in that region. They won’t have a selection that is specific to, say, the Atlanta area or even for Georgia. Instead, their selection would be for the southeastern United States. (Let me assure you that gardening in Florida and gardening in Virginia are two different things.)

Check with your state’s Cooperative Extension Service to find out which varieties do well in your area. For example, I have a leaflet from them that lists which varieties of each vegetable do well in Georgia. It took a little searching, but I found it available for download in PDF format on their website.

If your local retailer doesn’t have the selection you want, there are online seed sources, including some that specialize in heirloom varieties not carried by the big seed companies. Numerous places sell seed online. For example, one I’ve used is Renee’s Garden (http://www.reneesgarden.com/), but there are many others. (However, note that these smaller seed companies may not distinguish varieties that do well in different parts of the country.)


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