Why I Grow from Seed and How to Get Started

There’s no one and only right way to start seeds. Seed starting is as personal and diverse as gardeners themselves. But if going to the garden centre and buying seedlings that are ready to plant is so easy… why do I commit to the time and energy it takes to grow from seed?

Seed Starting
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Hope

Looking at a sea of budding green bits on my shelves after I’ve come inside from shovelling snow is an inspiring promise of the warm and sunny days to come. I am excited every. single. time. a seed germinates.

Variety

Growing from seed gives me the opportunity to try different varieties of vegetables that may not be sold as seedlings at local garden centres.

Education

It is in the process of growing from seed that I have observed, troubleshooted and learned the most about the vegetable plants that grow in my garden year after year. Observing the full cycle of planting one teeny tiny pepper seed to harvesting a bowl of peppers from that single seed and going one step further – saving those seeds to grow next year – is enlightening.

Respect

To understand the immense dedication and time it takes for a single tomato to grow is to respect food, the earth and all of its gifts. Pre-vegetable-growing Jaz would not have thought too much about discarding the fronds of a carrot… post-vegetable-growing Jaz uses every part of that carrot! Did you know fronds make wonderful pesto? It is also wonderful used as garnish. So fancy.

Mindfulness

I make a point to slow down when I garden, especially when I start seeds. Life feels too fast sometimes. Turn off your phone. Put on some good music. Sit down, get your hands dirty and start a garden.

Ok but HOW do you start a garden?

How do you start from seed? It can feel daunting to start seeds for the first time but here are thoughts to mull over before you get started. This “how” section is simplified – on purpose – because when you are just starting out, don’t overthink it. Seeds, water, soil and a small container are the start of a garden.

Bare bones important bits:

  • Soil - Buy a package of soil that is specifically called “Seed Starter Soil.” It is lighter than regular potting soil which help the wee little baby roots establish themselves. It also isn’t full of nutrients, which the plants don’t need until they get a bit bigger. Wet your soil before you place the seeds in.
  • Containers - I reuse the same plastic cell-packs year after year. Ideally I don’t like to use a lot of plastic but they’re a great place to start and easy to store and save for next season. A 6 cell-pack or 4 cell-pack is a great place to start but you can be creative here. You can use pretty much anything that can hold soil such as recycled take-out containers or a toilet paper roll! If crafting your own, poke a few holes in the bottom to allow water to drain out.
  • Lights vs. Windowsill - Growing from the windowsill can work and that's how I grew for the first years. I ran my seedlings around from the east window in the morning to the west window in the afternoon, chasing the light. I made makeshift surface areas out of cardboard and chairs that took up a lot of space in my small home. They grew, it worked, but my seedlings were always “leggy" which means they were stretching for the sun. If you are serious about starting seeds, invest in a grow light of any size. You CAN grow on a windowsill, but having light directly above your seedlings for several hours longer than the sun during the short late winter days makes a huge difference.

Final tips for success

  • Start small - Expansion of your set-up can happen over time, for example, I’ve been starting seeds for many years and I do not have a heat mat. I also only started with tomatoes. About six of them. Fast forward several years and mostly every veggie, herb and flower that I grow in my garden, I grow myself from seed.
  • Grow What You Like to Eat!

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