In days of yore the only way to have a garden was to start start your own seeds in flats indoors or plant seeds directly into the garden. This has still the advantages of being able to select the varieties you most desire, saving your own seeds, and getting a head start on the growing season with tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and the like. By head start I mean that if, for instance, tomatoes are started early enough they will have flowers and possibly tiny tomatoes when they are set out into the garden in the heat of June.
But many other plants benefit from being started indoors that can also be planted as seeds in the garden. Starting beans indoors lets me know exactly how many and where I am planting them in the garden and if one or more get eaten I can easily replace just those. Likewise, really early crops like lettuce and Chinese cabbage can be up and growing to be planted as soon as the soil can be worked. Sometimes I soak my pea seeds for a day or two, sometimes I don’t but they always go into the soil as seeds.
Sometimes a sunny south window is all that is needed to start seedlings but they benefit greatly with added light. Full spectrum lights are common now and those are best for the plants. I have a plant growing stand with adjustable, four foot bulbs that can be raised or lowered. I keep them only just above, not touching, the leaves for maximum light because no matter how bright the bulbs they are nothing compared to true sunlight. As soon as there is a warm day the plants get carried carefully out for fifteen minutes, then more, then they go out in a sunny but protected spot as soon for all day….and get carried back in if the weather turns cold. I have a lot of flats and this is a lot of work but normal people would perhaps not find it so time consuming.
Every year I find myself at the nursery, sometimes more than one, looking over the plants and thinking that maybe I want to try that variety, or whoops I forgot parsley. Also, nurseries have many different flowers and I only start a few from seeds. But one of the best things nurseries have these days is enormous tomato plants. They are not cheap, no six for four dollars, but huge plants in gallon pots with flowers and small tomatoes. Last year I saw them ranging form eleven to nineteen dollars but they are perfect for an instant tomato garden or for someone who only wants one. Nurseries also have onion and leek plants and many leafy greens, cabbages, herbs squashes, and so forth. For a small investment one can have a nearly instant garden. Before setting an expensive tomato plant into the garden make sure the frosts are over and warm days are here again. Our growing season here in the Northeast is longer that in years past and the tomato you plant in June can easily be producing right into October with care.
Keeping in mind that many garden plants can be continuously harvested throughout the summer like cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchinis, most leafy greens, and beans, one gets a lot of value from the garden. Yes, the prices of organic produce drops in the summer but none of it will be as fresh or as rewarding as the harvest from your own garden. Besides, it’s fun. I think starting seeds is addictive and I predict that those who try it will go on. The bottom line is, start some and buy some.
The next post will deal with seed starting in more detail.