How much is early seed starting worth?
Starting your own plants from seed may be fun and potentially cost effective, but decisions have to be made about which seeds to start ahead in the greenhouse. I find it helpful to use the following criteria to evaluate this:
- 1. Which plants need a longer growing season (to flower or fruit) than they can get in your zone? Will starting them in the greenhouse be enough to overcome that limitation?
- 2. Which plants or sprouts fit in pots sizes I can manage. Similarly, are those sizes that are reasonable to fit in my greenhouse?
- 3. Which plants seem to germinate more erratically? Planting these in the greenhouse allows for more organized placement in beds when they are transplanted.
- 4. Which plants benefit from a more controlled environment when germinating? Some seedlings are prone to suffer outside due to weather or insects. So, which will have their survival enhanced by a greenhouse beginning?
- 5. Which sprouts tend to get lost or accidentally weeded out in the real garden, unless I grow them to a large enough size in the greenhouse first?
- 6. What can I plant ahead that keeps me from buying plants at the nursery?
- 7. What transplants most easily?
- 8. What seed is expensive, such that controlled planting in the greenhouse gets me more sprouts for my money?
- 9. What plants might I want to give as gifts? This is much easier to do from a pot.
- 10. What makes me happy to plant from seed?
Examples, like peppers and squash
For example, squash may be fun to sprout in pots, but they get large so quickly that growing them indoors gets tricky. One the other hand, I have never had peppers sprout spontaneously in my garden, so I am more inclined to start them indoors.
Thyme is one of those herbs that stays teeny for so long. I don’t plant in standard vegetable garden rows, so it is good to let it grow to a visible size before putting it outdoors amongst the landscaping.
Dahlias are on the large size, but they are so much more cost effective to start from tubers myself. Also, they bloom sooner if I get them going indoors first.
Gardener, know thy shopping tendencies
If I have flats of fun and unique flower seedlings at home waiting to be cared for and transplanted, I am less likely to buy the more common varieties so readily available. I don’t want to end up using up my garden space before I’ve had a chance to plant the plants I’ve nurtured from seed.
Right now, I have started peppers and some onions from seed (starting the onions in pots is an experiment this year). In the next few days, I will start some of the flowers that can take up to 21 days to even sprout. I will also soon start those flowers and herbs that stay small for so long.
It is a bit too soon for most other things. Spring can’t be rushed. Savor the moment, but enjoy the anticipation.