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No two gardens are the same. No two days are the same in one garden.

~Hugh Johnson ~

Growing plants from seeds

If you have been gardening for a while, you may may or may not have tried growing plants from seeds.

As much seed-starting as I do, I've tried most methods by now.and I've come to prefer the least labor intensive. Just call me 'the lazy gardener'.
I love to see the seedling come up, it's such a positive experience and I highly recommend you give it a try. If you are gardening with children, pick seeds that are easy to germinate, easy to handle and will flower in their first season (carrots, sunflowers, marigolds, zinnias, etc)

Most seeds are 'smart', they don't need artificial light or heat to germinate, and they know when the time is right to germinate. As long as your seeds are fresh and have been stored properly, they will germinate. They may test your patience, they certainly have tested mine. I have tossed out soil and seeds after weeks of trying to get Datura seeds to grow, just to see them come up and laugh at me from the top of the compost heap.

Possible the most challenging seeds to grow are those of Hellebore, they must be sown fresh and germination will take 7 to 8 months. Last years Hellebore seeds may take several years to germinate, if at all..

Generally, fresh seeds are best. Check the labels when purchasing to make sure your new seeds have not been sitting on the back shelf for years. The USDA requires that seeds are labeled with a planting date. Older seeds may still germinate, if you have some left-overs, put them out as soon as you can, but don't be surprised if they sprout less profusely.

Sowing in a cell pack or pot (with or without growing lights):

Most recommended for tender perennials and seeds that need warm temperatures for germination. It requires a fair bit of space and effort and initial set-up can be expensive. Best when seedlings need to ready for transplanting or sale at a certain time.

The 'baggy' method:

Can be used with most annual and perennial seeds.
Seeds are placed inside folded and moistened coffee filters which are then inserted into a zip-lock bag. Leave a little bit of the zip undone so air exchange can take place, but not so much that the filter paper dries out.. Storing the bags upright encourages the roots to grow between the layers of the paper. One needs to check the baggies every 2 or 3 days and transplant seeds into soil as soon as roots are beginning to form. I have found that using an old kitchen knife dipped in water is a good way for picking up and transferring the seedlings. A couple of toothpicks also do the trick. Avoid handling the seedling with your fingers.

Pot and 'baggy' method :

This has become my favorite method for most seeds which can not be free-sown and those that need an early indoors start. It's also great for tiny seeds that are difficult to handle!
Place the seeds in the soil and firm in, if seeds need light for germination (such as columbines) sow them on top of the soil. Place the pot in a zip-lock baggie (quart or gallon size depending on size of the pot) and moisten well. Leave a little of the zip undone so air exchange can take place and place the contraption on a sunny windowsill. When the seedlings emerge, open up the top of the baggie completely and watch them grow. Transplant into their permanent location when ready (at least one set of true leaves is present and your outside temperatures are suitable to the type of plant).

Winter sowing:

This is a variation on the 'pot and baggie' method and works best for self-seeding annual and perennials that require stratification or a period of cold to induce germination. NOT recommended for tender or tropical plants.
Simply place your pot and baggie in an outside shady and protected area. The pot and baggie protect your seeds from being eaten by birds or animal.

Direct sowing in the garden:

Most annual, perennial and vegetable seeds can be free-sown.
Prepare the soil by loosening and adding any amendments such as compost. Sow seeds in rows and cover with soil. Use your hand or a flat piece of wood to 'firm' them in so they will have good contact and water well.


Seeds to try:

Love-in-a-mist       Annual
Datura Metel LaFleur Lilac   Annual
Columbine    Perennial