A GRAND SEED-STARTING SCHEME

It is mind boggling to me that last year was the first in my life that I have started seeds indoors to give the garden a jump start. I’ve done a lot of growing from seeds planted directly in the garden, but I last year was the first year that I’ve started things inside.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. The best part was having something to do that is remotely related to gardening at the time of the year when I so desperately want to do it, but it is way too early to do anything outside. 



I’ve always thought that one of the best parts of gardening was the satisfaction that comes from seeing something that you’ve nurtured flourish. As I discovered vegetable gardening, that satisfaction only multiplied. But to grow something from seed in your basement and have it end up on your table as part of a delicious meal is perhaps the ultimate in gardening satisfaction.

It’s also an incredibly frugal way to make a garden. Of course there’s no point in fooling yourself that you grew something for the price of a seed. There is seed-starting mix and potting mix to be purchased. Seed trays, small pots and energy to run the seed-starting mats and grow light. I don’t know what that all adds up to; whatever it is, it was worth it. 

I have a lot of seed starting plans for this year. It’s probably more than is practical given the limited space and single grow light that I have but restraint has never been my strong suit. Some things that I started indoors last year will be directly sown due to space constraints. Other things, particularly flowers, will be started inside with my fingers tightly crossed.

There is some science to growing from seeds. There is a right time to start seeds indoors so they don’t suffer as they outgrow a tiny pot while you wait for the weather to warm up so they can go outside. Every seed has conditions it likes. Many want some heat to get started. Others need darkness or light. Some are very fussy about the size of the pot they are in. How’s a garden supposed to know it all?

This year I've relied on a few sources to gather information on all of the things I plan to grow from seed. The first is a book called Annuals and Tender Plants for North American Gardens by Wayne Winterrowd. This out of print book (I found it on Amazon and it came as a retired library book, sadly hardly used) was suggested by Matt Mattus of Growing with Plants and I think it's an excellent reference book for any serious gardener. The second book is one I was sent for review, The Edible Garden by Alys Fowler (of occasional British gardening television fame). This has wonderful information on growing almost anything edible and is presented in a very colorful and fun-to-look-at manner. These are two books I'll definitely keep in my gardening library for the long term. And the last source, of course, is the Internet.

Online, I started with Margaret Roach’s seed starting guide and worked from there using the books for more detailed information. I compiled all the information onto a spreadsheet so I know when to start seeds, what they need for germination or any other growing tips and when to transplant them outside. I just wanted a place with all the information in one glance, rather than having to try looked it all up with dirt on my hands. 


Here’s what it looks like so far. There are a few things to add to my chart, but this is a start.


The great news is that I’m just a couple weeks away from starting a few things which means that I will be officially gardening, not just mentally gardening. It will be good for my brain not to mention my gardening soul.

Are you planning to start some things from inside this year?

11 comments :

  1. I am a very successful seed starter. I have a bad habit of letting the seedlings whither and did while I go on vacation though. Don't laugh but my best seed starting resorce is an app called Deluxe Moon. I think it's like $2.99 but it has a gardening by the moon feature and I swear it's never led me wrong. So play some Stevie Nicks and light some incense and give it a try! Haha. This year I am going to try and ONLY grow basil and sage from seed. I get so excited and start like 1000 things. But only basil and sage. Only basil and sage. at one point I had over 100 perennial garden sages but all but three of them perished due to brutal winters or being choked out by weeds! I should photograph my sad garden and publish photos on my blog just to make me keep it in order.

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    1. I downloaded that app today. Thank you, Stephen! Good luck with JUST basil and sage. Yeah, right.

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  2. You are s very organized and I love your spreadsheet! I'm planning to do sweet peas too, although I haven't decided yet whether to wintersow with protection in a protected area outside or start them inside. I might wintersow, just so I don't have to remember to water them... Good luck with your many seeds. I can't wait to see your photos of the flowers and herbs! -Beth

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  3. I gave in and already have a couple things started from seed. It could go very badly, but both of them are things that could possibly take over a month to germinate (brugmansia, gunnera). I saved some of the seed back so that I can start more in a few weeks when it is a more appropriate time to start seed. This time of the year is a great time to start annual geraniums from cuttings, if you have overwintered any. I started some last week along with a few coleus cuttings from plants I have overwintered too. I have a bunch of dahlia bulbs potted up so I can take cuttings from those too (I hope, I have never tried that before--but I was inspired to do so by Fine Gardening and Gardener's World!). I have everything ready to go including grow lights in the basement for the real seed starting frenzy in a month or so!
    I like your spreadsheet...and the book recommendations! I will have to see if I can find those in the library.

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    1. After reading that article in Fine Gardening I'm going to try to root some cuttings from my dahlias as well (that is assuming that the bulbs I overwintered are OK; I don't think I'll be getting my new tubers in time for that). PLEASE let me know how growing gunnera goes! It is such a phenomenal plant.

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  4. I love to start plants from seed and have a page on my blog called So Seedy. I started a few plants under lights Jan 1, am wintersowing a bunch of others, and will start a large group of seeds March 1. Verbena b. grow like mad in my garden and would probably winter sow for you very well. It's not too late to start. :o) I started sweet peas under lights so I can transplant them outside as soon as its warm enough and they germinated really quickly. Out of 18 seeds sown, 17 sprouted and are huge! Be sure to soak the seeds over night. Good luck!

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    1. Good suggestion on wintersowing the Verbena bonariensis! Thanks for the suggestion. You soak your sweet peas? I've seen advice to soak them, advice to nick them and advice to do nothing to them! Maybe I'll try a little of each.

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    2. I soaked them over night and they sprouted in just a few days. :o)

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  5. I'm so anxious to get started with my seeds, but it's still a few weeks away here too. This year, I'm starting my sweet peas inside - I usually just start them outside.
    Just ordered a bunch of kale and lettuce from Renees Garden which will also be planted directly.
    Oh, I can't wait!!!

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  6. I'm hit or miss when starting seeds indoors. I usually start some tomatoes and basil and other tender annuals in April. You've inspired me to consider starting some sooner. Thanks.

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