In nature, all plants start from seeds and under the right conditions manage to flourish under their own devices and develop into lush healthy specimens. However, when we want to start our vegetable gardens often the seeds need a little help to ensure the conditions are right to get our plants off to a good start. It can seem a little daunting to start from seed and it can be tempting to let the garden centres do this for us and pick up some seedlings closer to the day when the weather warms up.
The thing is – sowing seeds isn’t all that difficult, and is a lot more affordable with many packets costing just a few dollars for up to thousands of seeds. It is also very rewarding to watch those tiny seeds emerge from the bare soil into the green seedlings that will grow strong and bear the harvest of your garden in the coming months. It can also keep your green fingers busy tending the seedlings indoors while you wait for the spring to be warm enough to plant things outside.
The first important point is you don’t need to rush and start things early. All plants have their own sense of timing and often we are trying to get them to do things outside their comfort zone, which can sometimes work to our benefit. Peppers need a long growing season to produce a good harvest in mid to late summer, so by starting the seeds in very early spring and keeping them safe and warm will mean the plants will be more advanced in their development by the time they are planted out. They are slow growing, stocky plants and are easily managed indoors. Pumpkins on the other hand grow quickly and so only need about a month indoors to get going before desperately needing to be planted outside. And then you find if, when the time is right, you sow a seed directly outdoors at the same time as planting the seedling in the ground – in a matter of weeks you won’t know which is which. So there is no advantage to starting these early.
Experience can teach you how long plants need between sowing and planting. The seed packet may say it can be sown from early spring, but it may not be the case in your area.
Good spacing and planting depth is just as important in the ground as it is in a seed tray. Firm the soil over the seed, making sure the seeds have good contact with the soil and water lightly.
Seeds sown outdoors need extra protection as they are vulnerable to many pests. Slugs and snails will gobble them up before you even realise they’ve emerged. Cats can use your seed bed as a kitty litter box and scatter your seeds and leave a not-so-pleasant surprise and birds can steal the seeds the moment you turn your back. There are many solutions out there, and you need to find the one that works best for you in your garden.
Sowing seeds couldn’t be easier and are a great way to start off your veggie growing season.