Grow Your Own Plants What To Look For
Sowing seed can be a cheaper alternative to buying more mature plants and undeniably it can be extremely rewarding watching the whole process from beginning to end. It is indeed a learning curve and the more you propagate, the more you learn and the more you want to do. It is definitely a very satisfying feeling to have raised a plant from seed. A feeling that still rewards experienced gardeners.
Many seeds can be sown direct into ground, and in these cases you should be guided by the instructions on seed packets to sowing direct. In addition an element of common sense needs to prevail in that the weather conditions in some areas can be somewhat unpredictable, so if it is very wet or cold then seed sowing should be delayed. Take your cue from the weather!
Why Plant Seeds?
Or, more accurately, why not plant them? In the past few years, we’ve transformed the Canadian gardening experience from the roots up. We’re returning to what gardening used to be: dirt under the fingernails, letting nature make the rules, and growing our own food.
The fascinating thing about the interest in homegrown food, and what makes it more than just another trend, is that different groups of people have different motivations, and they’re innovating and adapting it in their own ways. Here are just a few reasons why you should throw some seeds in the dirt this spring:
The health benefits to growing your own food are no secret. Veggies are at their maximum vitamin content straight out of the garden; the longer you wait after picking, the less vitamins there are. When you grow your own, you know what goes into it. You know where it comes from (your yard) and if it has been exposed to pesticides (hopefully not).
– Homegrown food simply tastes better. If you don’t believe me, here’s a test. Grow a strawberry and a tomato this summer. When they’re ripe, go buy one of each from the store. Put them on plates and conduct a blind taste test with your family; I guarantee which one they will like best.
– A lot of people plant seeds for their children. It’s no surprise to anyone that we’re in the midst of an epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes. Teaching your children how to grow peas and tomatoes doesn’t cost much, and the rewards will echo throughout their lives.
– Growing food really is growing money. By planting some seeds and investing a little bit of time and effort, a family can save hundreds of dollars on the grocery bill. Chances are you’re not going to harvest enough olives off an olive tree to break even, but varieties such as beans, tomatoes, potatoes and carrots are like high-interest investments.
When to Sow Seeds?
Seeds of annuals are usually sown in the spring. They can be sown outside when there is no danger of frost, or under cover and planted out when there is no danger of frost.
Seeds of hardy annuals can also be sown outside in the autumn. This will give them a longer growing period and a head start over similar plants sown in the spring, so they will flower earlier.
Seeds of half-hardy annuals can be sown outside in the spring, or under cover in the autumn.
If they are germinated in warmer conditions, they will need to be acclimatized to harsher conditions, by putting them outside for longer periods each day until they are finally strong enough to be able to stay outside all the time. This is called ‘hardening off’
Seeds of hardy perennials can be sown in spring, summer, autumn or winter. Some may need stratification, so should be sown outside in the autumn. Some may take several seasons to germinate.
Seeds of half-hardy perennials and tropical which are to be sown in heat may be sown at any time of year.
More About Winter Sowing:
A traditional way of sowing seeds in Europe, this is now becoming popular in the US. As growing indoors under lights is one of the most usual methods of starting seeds in America, the most popular method of winter sowing is a sort of half-way house between sowing outside and sowing indoors, with the seeds being kept in unheated propagators kept outside. As this produces a humid environment, there are still problems with aphids, leggy seedlings and damping off. In England, it is more usual to sow seeds in pots and leave them uncovered either in a cold frame or in the open garden in a sheltered place. In fact, this used to be the method also used in the United States (Prof. Norm Deno, of Pennsylvania State University, wrote in 1993 in his book Seed Germination Theory and Practice: ‘A time honored procedure in horticulture and gardening has been to sow seeds in pots and place them outdoors in the fall’), but they seem to have got side-tracked and come to believe that it’s essential to sow seeds indoors under shop lights.
Rules for Successful Seed Sowing:
- Always use fresh compost
- Always use clean pots
- Always label the seeds
- Don’t let them dry out
- Don’t keep them wet
- Watch out for predators – snails and slugs can get anywhere!
- Improvise – use whatever you have that will give the seeds the conditions they need to germinate.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment – often, one ‘expert’ will tell you a particular type of seed needs to be stratified, and another ‘expert’ will tell you it needs to be sown in heat. Your guess is as good as theirs.
- If your seedlings suddenly collapse and die, one of the fungal diseases called “damping off” or “seed and seedling rot” may be to blame. In one type of damping off, the seedling’s stem collapses at or near the soil surface; in another type, the seedling rots before it emerges from the soil, or the seed decays before it even sprouts.
To prevent these problems, use pasteurized potting mix and new or thoroughly washed and disinfected containers.
Take care not to overwater seedlings; be sure to provide good air circulation and ventilation, so tops of seedlings stay dry and standing moisture is kept to a minimum. Thinning seedlings to eliminate crowding is also helpful.
Finally – they won’t grow if you don’t sow them!