Planting seeds may make sense for you

Try starting your own seedlings.

Springtime is the perfect time for starting a project, trying something new. If you have a green thumb or are looking to develop one, then planting seedlings might just be that new project you’re looking for.

As in any new project, you might ask "How do I start?" This question may be followed by, "Why should I plant seeds instead of starter plants?"

Starting out

The process of germination, growing a seed into a seedling, is a pretty straightforward process and with cold and unpredictable weather, starting seeds indoors is an excellent option for beginning your garden early to get a jump on the growing season.

Starting out with basic, quality materials is the first step. Choosing quality seeds that will be able to germinate and using a growing container that is large enough to support the eventual transplant and has proper drainage capabilities is key to successfully starting seeds. Planting seeds in a media that will support their growth and is free of pathogens, or disease-causing agents, will ensure your seeds have the best chance of growing into seedlings and later, into full-fledged plants.


Amy Holmgren, the greenhouse manager of Seed Savers Exchange, gives some advice on beginning seeds: "Here at Seed Savers Exchange, we add finished compost to our sterile potting media (peat/perlite), ending up with a mix that contains nutrients as well as structure, moisture holding capacity and drainage."

Growing environment

Once you have chosen your seeds, potting media, and containers, you will want to be sure to create an environment conducive to growing.

While a warm, humid environment is right for many plants, not all have the same requirements. "Seed packets generally include ideal germination temperatures and how many days one can expect to pass prior to their seedlings surfacing," notes Holmgren. "It’s also wise to follow the ‘weeks to transplant’ that most packets indicate," she continues. "Most of us don’t want our transplants to be the size of houseplants by the time it’s warm enough to get them into the garden."

When growing plants from seeds to seedlings indoors, they will need to be prepared for being transplanted outdoors once they are ready and the weather allows. Regulating light, air-flow and watering will help acclimate them to the elements.

Once potted, your growing seedlings will also require proper light. If you don’t have a greenhouse, it is important to find a sunlit area or use supplemental lighting, such as fluorescent lights, to keep your seedlings from stretching.

When you are preparing to bring your seedlings outside, transition them from partial sunlight to full sunlight. For example, begin by placing them in a screened outdoor area or under a tree that lets dappled light through its branches. This will help the seedlings adjust to the strong rays of the sun.

"Air-flow," Holmgren advises, "is also important to keep disease to a minimum and even to strengthen young plants." Proper air-flow will increase the survival rate of seedlings as they will be better adjusted to the wind they will experience after being transplanted outside. Being sure not to over or under water the plants is another essential step in the care of your seedlings.


"How you’re going to supply nutrition for the seedlings is also something to consider," Holmgren shares. "Are you incorporating compost into your media? Are you going to apply liquid fertilizer as they grow? At what point will they need a boost of nutrition? Even with compost incorporated into our potting media, some transplants will need supplemental nutrients. This is true of some of the crops that remain in the greenhouse for longer periods of time."

The benefits of seedlings

There are a number of advantages to growing your own plants from seeds. From an economic standpoint, the cost of seeds is significantly lower than the cost of buying a flat of plants.

Besides the cost, you will benefit from knowing exactly where your produce came from, knowing exactly what the plants have been exposed to. The process of growing plants from seeds is also more convenient—you can decide exactly when you want to begin the growing process.

Planting the seeds and caring for them throughout the entire growing process also provides the satisfaction of accomplishing something—and it’s fun too!

On the benefits of planting seedlings, Holmgren adds one last note: "I think it’s important that folks grow crops that they like to eat and that they’re excited to grow. They’re much more inclined to take care of and weed them over the course of the growing season if they’re passionate about the crop, love to eat it or are excited to learn about it."

Where to go

When you’re first starting out, the best place to go for gardening supplies and advice is your local gardening center. There are a variety of garden centers in and around the Rochester area with experts ready to help with your next project. Sargent’s Gardens, Family Tree Landscape Nursery and Houston’s Greenhouse are only a few of the many locations offering a wide variety of gardening products and expert advice on starting out on your next gardening project.

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