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I really never start vegetables from seeds

When we first moved to the country, I had a long list of all the heirloom varieties of vegetables that I was going to start from seed. Then I went to our little weekly Growers Market and found literally everything on my list as transplants. Let's face it. Most of us home gardeners really only need one squash plant, one each of several different types of tomatoes, etc. My first vegetable garden had way too many of each thing. So now I'll buy one yellow crookneck squash (so delicious cut in half, brushed with olive oil and cooked on the grill), a Brandywine tomato, a Costoluca Genovese (how much did I murder those words?), a grape tomato, a six pack of basil, a couple of oreganoes. And, although our winters get down in the teens regularly, my rosemary gets whacked with the loppers at least once a year.

If you want an excellent book on small scale gardening check out "Square Foot Gardening."

Just a few words above from an always-beginner gardener.

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  1. agree, my only exception is snap peas which I grow on my deck. There's something life affrirming this time of year (before last frost) in watching some pea plants start from seed.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DGresh

      Same here - for most things I use seedlings, but I have three types of peas (pod, sugar snap, and snow) started from seed, as well as a row of French breakfast radishes.

    2. Funny, I think that's the book on my reserve list at the library. I use both seed and plants from the farmer's market/botanic garden. Chili peppers are very very easy from seed, fer instance.

      Parsley is one thing I totally recommend starting from seed for everybody, especially since you live in the country. As in, a packet of seed dumped on a few square feet of dirt, or in a large container like a half barrell. It takes 3 weeks to sprout, but just when you give up, it goes. No maintenance required.

      The other is nasturtiums, because they are reliable and easy and I'm too cheap to buy one of those hanging baskets of them when the seeds are so easy. Nick them, or at least soak them overnight, before planting.

      Buying plants is totally easy indeed . . . having them come back or self-sow is pretty cool too. My container of mint has put up its tiny leaves from those hardy roots that no doubt froze solid over one week this winter...

      3 Replies
      1. re: pitu

        I have 4 huge containers of nasturiums started from seeds. It took 2 weeks for them to germinate. The package did not say to soak the seeds over night. How am I supposed to know this? Thanks for mentioning it. I will do it next year. On the other hand I bought a package of Morning Glory seeds and the instructions were to soak for 24 hours. have the package of seeds rose to the top of the water glass. Which are the good seeds? The ones at the bottom?
        What about radish seeds? Do I soak them or not?

        1. re: Smachnoho

          My radishes sprouted in about four days, unsoaked. I don't think they need it.

          1. re: Smachnoho

            With those really big hard seeds (like morning glories) you can scratch or chip them before you soak. Maybe I read it on a package, maybe my mom told me....
            : )

        2. I have started salad greens from seed. Other than that the rest of my garden is seedlings.

          12 Replies
          1. re: Brandon Nelson

            I have a container garden on my back porch - we have a small backyard and a really big tree with loads of shade so this is the only place to grow a garden

            I tried growing heirloom tomatoes from seeds - they grew into tiny seedlings & but didn't thrive once transplanted, ditto for the peas.

            The heirloom lettuce was the easiest thing - sprinkled in the container & water.
            My basil, lavender and chives didn't even sprout.

            I will be going to my local organic garden center for my vegetable garden this year... and I will be picking up that book - Square Food Gardening.

            1. re: Apple

              Check the book out of the library if it's available. I think it's a fascinating concept.

              1. re: c oliver

                I just checked - all 6 copies are checked out of the Toronto Public Library system! Looked up a couple other container garden books - all checked out or on hold... next year - it pays to start earlier... I may persue the local bookstore to see if it's worth buying (it's on amazon for about 15 bucks)

                1. re: Apple

                  I definitely think it's worth buying but I'd still like for you to actually look at it. Maybe at a garden center?

                  1. re: Apple

                    I believe there is a pretty good website, too.

                    Here it is...

                      1. re: Shrinkrap

                        Thx for the website -- there are sooo many Holds on that book at the library. It took a while to get it, and I had to return it on time...
                        and now I totally want to grow shitake and miatake mushrooms.

                      2. re: Apple

                        I am #27 of 27 on the hold list at my library. But I discovered there is also a video and I am #1 on the list for 15 available copies of the video:
                        Title: Introducing square foot gardening [videorecording] / Mel Bartholomew and Suzy Valentine.
                        Portion of title: Square foot gardening
                        Edition: All new version.
                        Publication info: Eden, Utah : Square Foot Gardening Foundation, c2005.
                        Physical descrip: 1 videocassette (36 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.
                        General Note: New version of: Introduction to square foot gardening. c2000.
                        Performer: Host, Mel Bartholomew.
                        Summary: Demonstrates a simple method of growing vegetables, flowers, and herbs without investing a lot of time or labor. Based on the best selling garden book: Square foot gardening, by Mel Bartholomew.

                      3. re: c oliver

                        I started a square foot garden two years ago to take advantage of all the dead lawn in my backyard. I started with 2 4x4 boxes and added another 4x4 and a 3x8 this spring. I'll probably add a potato bin and a root box (for carrots and other deep root veggies) next year.

                        I just used pine as it's MUCH cheaper than redwood and in the dry weather out here will still last years.

                        I also started composting; now I collect all the coffee grounds, paper towels (except those used to wipe up anything oily), vegetable trimmings and egg shells from the kitchen and toss them in the bin.

                          1. re: meadandale

                            Paper towels can be composted? What type? How long does it take for them to break down?
                            I compost but hadn't thought of putting paper towels in the bin.

                        1. re: Apple

                          Its pretty hard to start seeds indoors unless you have a light set up. other considerations are warmth and maintenance of humidity/moisture for germination and growth. Covering the seeded flats or pots is pretty much essential until your seeds are up, after that, consistent watering and feeding along with the strong light source will give you the nice starts.

                          Having said that, I havent planted anything indoors yet this year! Basil is super easy however if you observe the above requirements.

                      4. I've started basil from seed and it never seems to do well, so I've given up.

                        I only use seeds that I'd start in the ground, like peas, carrots and beets. This year I'll probably do lettuce from seed too. I have started squash from seed but you're right, it's just as easy to pick up transplants at a local farmer's market or nursery. I don't have a nice sunny window that I can currently use for starting seeds, so it's more trouble than it's worth.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: Chris VR

                          see note above. Basil is really easy to start indoors, but you need to have moist, warm conditions (like under lights and covering your seedling pots) for it to germinate well. take the cover off after its all sprouted.

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            It's not the germination that's been a problem for me, it's just that the plants I get never really take off. *Shrug* my tomatoes go like gangbusters and i've never had any problems with them, so I've come to accept that basil just doesn't want to grow for me!

                            1. re: Chris VR

                              its a delicate heat and water loving plant. warmth, light, water fertility. its mechanical. not personal. Especially before it warms up fully, basil doesnt grow much in a window, in my experience. Under lights or perhaps with some kind of humidity dome that warms up its environment its a different story.

                              1. re: jen kalb

                                one summer, total accident..I was on vacation. I bought a herb tee pee to cover the plants and used a water pole that keeps the levels good while on vacation. I came home to a basil plant double its size because the humidity level was what it craved. Now, I tent the plants regularly.

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  TJs around here sells really nice basil plants. I keep it indoors, snip away and when it dies I throw it out. Cheap and easy.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    c, how long does a basil plant last before you consider it dead? I've never seen a basil plant for sale at TJ's that had more than 2 branches on it.

                                    For a buck more I buy a large pot, basil already started from seed that last 6 months in my porch. That's cheap & easy.

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      They're huge - probably 18" tall ? - and maybe 8-12" in diameter. It probably doesn't really *die* but I'll cut leaves for at least a month til there are no leaves left. And maybe it cost $3. It's just easy; I admit it. We travel alot and things planted in the ground are on drip. Just lazy :)

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        Makes sense, especially if you travel alot. Indoor herb gardens do take tending to. Outdoors, in the early stage, even more of a commitment. One work trip and I lost half a garden one year. Learned my lesson.

                                        For 3 bucks that plant is about what my market offers out of the pot in the produce section. Dead of winter in NJ, if I'm out of frozen basil, I'll spend 2-3 bucks for a fresh herb w/roots to make killer pesto. I love basil.

                          2. re: Chris VR

                            Some things are pissy about being transplanted - and there are some places where some transplanting just does not work. I have found - and others may have a different experience - that root veggies like carrots and turnips don't transplant well. I have never tried beets - I sow directly, but I think they might be finicky too, but might work if you wanted greens only. Melons sometimes do not translate well either. Ditto that on cucumbers... not that I have not tried.

                            You really need a grow mat, proper lighting with times of rest and something to exercise them (like a fan). So pesky.

                          3. I whack the seeds of my butternut pumpkins over the balcony and am rewarded with lovely lush vines (but not so much fruit) later in the year. This year, I am going to get all jiggy with my pumpkins and not leave it to nature.

                            1. I also get all my vegi starts from my local farmers market. I even cheat and get the huge tomatoe plants that they have, only need four of them, might as well have a head start.

                              1. I plant pretty much everything from seed, except for my eggplants, peppers and tomatoes ;-)

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: phoenikia

                                  Yeah, this is what we do because of the weather patterns here in eastern KS. All the early spring veggies--radishes, lettuce, spinach, peas, etc. we start from seed. We have very little room to grow transplants indoors, so buy tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant which are put out later. If we started them from seed, they'd have to start indoors because while spring is cool here, summer gets hot very quickly in June. In other words, the temps are too cool for seeding summer veggies outdoors, but we can't start them outdoors late, either, because they wouldn't have time to mature and bear before it gets cool again. The transplants are really the only way to grow. If i ever remodel, I'm going to create an area for seedlings, maybe a window specifically for them. Does anyone have experience with that--do they like a particular exposure?

                                  1. re: amyzan

                                    I used to grow my plants in the basement -- under grow lights set on a timer. They did great. I bought "shop lights" -- 4' long with two florescent bulbs -- one regular florescent and one full spectrum -- and suspended them on chains hung from a wooden frame. I think the cooperative extension service should have a model if you want to make your own.
                                    If you have alot of sun, you could try that, though they tend to get leggy and weak reaching for the sun.

                                    1. re: NYchowcook

                                      Yeah, that was my experience--leggy and weak--but I thought it was because the only available window was a western exposure. I like your idea, if I ever clean out the garage!

                                2. I used to start all my vegetables from seed, but now I can buy heirloom tomato plants and good peppers and such so I don't bother.

                                  However, some things are much better started from seed than plants IMO -- some are just easier to plant from seed, some plants do not like to be transplanted, and you have access to a greater variety, such as squash.
                                  Zucchini for instance -- throw in some seeds and the plants are up in a few days.

                                  If you buy seeds you can choose an unusual (generally better tasting) variety than are grown commercially. I like the Italian zucchini costata romanesco or cocozelle which has some flavor, and sports a lot of male blossoms that you can cut in the a.m. and cook with.

                                  Lettuce, arugula, spinach, cilantro, dill, chard and cucumber are easier to seed than transplant. So are most annual flowers.
                                  And you'll want to make succession plantings of lettuce and herbs to keep them coming all summer (except for chard which is cut and come again and you get greens at the ready all summer!)

                                  That said I wish I had started some Asian eggplants -- I want to grow the small green ones and didn't think about it early enough, and didn't find in Fedco when I ordered yesterday.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: NYchowcook

                                    One thing to consider is that you must plant the seeds at the right time.
                                    Some things you plant in the cold ground (like peas or greens) in early or mid spring others you absolutely have to wait til the soil is warm (here in NY Id say memorial day) like beans, for example or cucumbers (really easy in a city garden, on a trellis or fence). Or basil, I would say, needs warm soil. For these varieties, or things that take a long while to mature, like eggplant or tomatoes, or stuff that only does well in cooler weather and bolts in summer heat (like leaf lettuce) starting indoors or buying starts is a really good idea.

                                  2. My best 'grow from seed' project is asparagus. It takes 3 years from initial planting to first full harvest, but it was so satisfying. We had that row of asparagus for 15 years, until we sold the house and I would estimate that 59 cent pack of seeds fed us 360 meals.

                                    Gotta love that stimulus package!

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: LJS

                                      I have long wanted to grow asparagus, though haven't been in the same place for 3 years to reap the rewards. It also seems like a lot of work in the initial planting, what with the double row/trench thing.
                                      You had success with seeds?? I only knew asparagus starting as bare roots. Tell me more!

                                      1. re: LJS

                                        We had a nightmare experience with asparagus. We (mostly HE) dug the trench not realizing that it was too close to the irrigation ditch. When the water was turned into the ditch, it leached into and flooded and rotted the asparagus. Not surprisingly HE wasn't very interesting in doing THAT again. And, oh, did I mention we had REALLY rocky soil. Ugh.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          My second asparagus bed is doing fine...both started from seed. I didn't really understand the trench reference? I wish I could draw what I did because it is too difficult to describe in words, but the technique is really very simple. I just hilled up two short (6 foot) rows of soil, compost and seaweed enriched with a little bone meal (I am a big fan of bone meal). I made very shallow rows in the top of the little hills and popped in my seed.

                                          They grew, I weeded and then cut them off in the fall (no harvest for 3 years!). I mounded on a little more soil and seaweed and piled on some brush to keep the snow even.

                                          I am in Year two now and judging by the ferny growth all will be well.

                                          Do give it a try from crowsn if you must but the seed is SO much less expensive!!!

                                      2. I always by the starts from the farmer's market. I'm growing in container gardens. My first year last year was a HUGE hit and we put up ten pints of mild salsa, and five pints of hot. I was very very happy so we're doing four more containers this year.

                                        1. Although not a vegetable, sunflowers from seed are easy to grow and add character to the vegetable garden. Kids love growing them and the flowers produce great vase cuttings and bird seed at harvest time.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: HillJ

                                            I gerw the most beautiful chianti hybrid sunflowers a couple of summers back from seed.

                                            1. re: jpc8015


                                              Great example, jpc8! For those not familiar with Chianti Hybrid, here's a pix.

                                            2. re: HillJ

                                              Maybe I"ll grow some of these this year. I love sunflowers!

                                              1. re: Morganna

                                                Me too! Last year we bought 12 packs of mixed seeds and had no idea what we would wind up with and the sunflowers that grew were fantastic. We saved a large amt. of seeds from those flowers to replant this year and the kids have already started seed starter packs indoors. Fun project.

                                            3. I've had my best results in starting seeds using those magic sponge-like peat thingees, where I can transplant the whole peat & root structure without damaging the tender plant. I generally buy starts, however, just for ease -- esp. tomatoes, so I can gain a couple of weeks on harvesting. Herbs in a pot on the patio are about the only thing I start straight in the ground they'll grow in.

                                              1. I used to start dozens of tomato and pepper plants from seed, and have a great light stand with heat pads set up in my garage, and 5 raised beds I'd grow them in, but then I bought a fig tree and the roots seem to be making growing anything nearby a struggle. I still grow sugar snaps from seed though....FWIW, I also have two grape vines, pluot, apricot, nectarine, and peach trees, and usually grow garlic, shallots, and fava beans in the winter.

                                                1. I buy transplants from a local nursery that stock a large variety, including heirlooms. I've tried starting tomatoes from seed, even bought the flourescent grow ligth set up. But I always get this long, leggy stem with two tiny leaves on top, that keels over from it's own weight. I had read that you need to keep the light source closer to the seedlings, but I still got Manute Bol seedlings.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: sbp

                                                    like as close as it can get without scorching. Also, too many seeds in one pot or pack can creat leggy seedlings competing for light and resources. You also have to be vigilant with adjusting the light source as the seedlings grow, potting up, feeding, etc. I agree if you only want a few plants and can get what you want locally or by mail, seeds make littlesense, unless you enjoy the growing process.

                                                  2. You will appreciate that in our first vegetable garden we, having started our plants from seed and so having many plants) , conscientiously planted 72 plants each of tomato and zucchini (for a family of two adults and two children under six).

                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: Querencia

                                                      I am married to a man who cannot bring himself to discard any plant. I understand the sentiment!

                                                      1. re: DGresh

                                                        I used to feel that way -- I seeded basil in pairs and then couldn't bear to cut off to just one. I since learned, snip away for heartier plants.
                                                        I learned my lesson about having too many plants and too large a garden several years ago. You can always offer plants to friends, or go to the cooperative extension plant swap and trade.

                                                      2. re: Querencia

                                                        I had a neighbor once who retired from being an executive with a major international company. The dearest man but very much Type A. He took the masters gardening course at the county extension service and ran amok with his garden. One year he had 42 zuchinni plants. I called him once and asked if I could come over and get some basil. We lived 15 miles one way from the nearest so you understand my wanting a closer source. Well, I certainly did get the basil along with about ten pounds of other vegetables!!! I plant ONE squash and always have plenty. Love that story, Q. I think we've all done that but hopefully only once :)

                                                        1. re: Querencia

                                                          I did that when I was first starting out. I gave the extras to a neighbor school teacher. He was happy to have them for his class. Now I buy peppers and tomatoes in four in pots because I want as much variety as possible, usually just one of each.

                                                          1. re: Querencia

                                                            Too funny. Someone was eating zucchini and tomato saute every night of the week. Neighbors see you coming and run indoors.

                                                            I plant one A team Zucchini and ONE B team zuke. If I don't A always cacks. It is the lay of the garden.

                                                            My neighbor grows like 20 pound zucchinis. He ignores me when I tell them that they are ick tasting. I attribute his large veggies to his possibly carrying a light load up front. Just a theory.

                                                            1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                              I remember 20 lb zuccs :) We had so many we couldn't eat enough or process enough. Yes ick when they get big. We all had those toward the end of summer and there were so many ... what to do. We planted in two groups, some in July and others in late aug, we still had so many, same with beans, but they froze well and so many others. I'm thankful for our farmers market and my small garden, but I really miss some of the fresh veggies right out of the garden.

                                                              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                gak! why don't people pick the flowers and saute them, with or without a little zucchini attached? I know one or two always sneak by, but come on people, get with the SQUASH BLOSSOM craze!

                                                            2. I lived in the country during summers in MI and always did seed, back then not as may plants available. Now a days, tons of plants are available including almost all herbs. In FL now, it goes from winter in the 70's to summer in the mid 80's. Seeds don't work well. So I use small plants for my herbs, however I have grown some from seed. My basil does wonderful inside on my sill, but ... again, FL, no heat on or not very often. I had 6 heirlooms this year, 3 cucumbers and 4 squash plants and my herbs. Oh and forgot 4 peppers plants, habenero, jalapeno and this red banana type. Some I grow in my containers ... some just in my earth box. Depends on the room or space I have.

                                                              But I do love being able to buy the small plants which really work well for me.

                                                              1. I'm kinda the opposite. I used to start all my plants indoors in the basement with a light setup. I suppose I got earlier yeilds but by the time you harden the plants up outside for a week and wait another week after planting for the stems to thicken up and thier roots to become established...so these days I pretty much start everything directly in the garden from seed.

                                                                I did transplant some tomato and herb starts this year, but they never have the heiloom varieties that I really like. If I run across a packet of Brandywine tomato seed in the next few days I'll probably pull up the Rutgers I've planted already and start the brandywine over from seed.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: garfish

                                                                  I'm soo with you! This year EVERYTHING except peppers, tomatoes and some herbs are going to be directly seeded in my raised beds.

                                                                  Last year was my first in my new house. We have 3 beds (4'X10') and a 14'X14' patch tilled in the ground (for squash, zuccinni, melons). My sister and I share the garden because her yard is too small and we made the decision after last season to just direct sow. Neither of us have a grow light set-up and our seedlings started indoors have mostly been leggy, even in south facing windows.

                                                                  When we transplanted our seedlings, we thought we'd hedge our bets and direct sowed in adjact squares the cukes, peppers and scallions. Everything else was direct seeded, broc, cauli, beans, snap peas, lettuce, carrots, zukes and squash (bought plants for all our herbs). Sure enough in every case, the directly planted seeds caught up and out performed the seedlings!

                                                                  There is no way we could afford to buy plants for all the veggies we want to grow and it takes so much effort and time to start them indoors, only for poor results. Peppers and tomatoes didn't do well in either instance so those will be the only plants we buy this year along with non-hardy herbs.

                                                                2. I love that book and second the rec.
                                                                  Costoluto. Love them. My husband calls then Cost a lottos. We are easily amused here. Scratching chickens amuse us.