The idea of growing plants from seed is a little overwhelming for some people – I should know because I used to be one of those people! Gardening itself seemed hard enough already, let alone trying to nurture a little seed into life. I mean, why not just buy a full grown plant or some seedlings, plonk them in some soil and be done with it? While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this - purchasing plants and seedlings can be super convenient – I want to share just how incredible starting and nurturing from seed can feel, and the benefits for gardening this way. Here are some of our top reasons why we LOVE growing plants from seed:
Seriously, I’m not kidding. You follow the sowing depth instructions on the packet, give them enough water so that the soil doesn’t dry out and check on them every couple of days. They. Just. Grow. When that first little green bud pops up, you may find yourself doing a little happy dance – it’s a pretty amazing feeling. One thing to be careful of is not to overwater - too much water can rot the seeds, so just remember you’re watering to moisten and not saturate the soil. We like to start the majority of seeds in our greenhouse, as it protects them from the elements as well as snails, slugs and other insects that may eat the tiny buds before they even have a chance. Remember, even if only half of your seeds germinate the first time – you’re still coming out ahead, so don’t be disheartened!
Most of the time when we purchase plants from our local nursery, it’s hard to find everything on our wish list. You will be able to find the popular varieties but they will not necessarily offer the diversity. Unusual or heirloom varieties are sometimes only available as seeds. When you purchase seeds you will often find you can grow a wide assortment of fruit, veg and flowers. An added bonus of purchasing seeds is that you know where they came from – you can choose to buy heirloom, organic, open pollinated, non GMO seeds! I don’t know about you, but I’ve personally struggled to find organic fruit and veg seedlings in the past, unless we’re at a gorgeous local market or make a special trip – they’re just not as accessible as purchasing seeds – which you can do in bulk online. Happy days! There are absolutely certain nurseries that offer wonderful diversity and heirloom options, so if seedlings are your passion – just do a little research and you’re bound to find somewhere that sells them.
When I’ve purchased seedlings, on many occasions the plant has been pot-bound (also called root-bound) which means they have been sitting in their little pots for too long. These plants will pale in comparison to the seedlings that you have grown yourself – as you know exactly how long they have been sitting there and when they should be planted. It also means you have control over the quality of soil and fertilisers used – I aim to use organic in both cases. You may also find that seedlings can suffer from transplant shock –a good quality seaweed fertiliser may help them recover but is no guarantee that the transplanting hasn’t damaged them permanently. If you’re purchasing seedlings, my advice is not to choose the largest seedling because you think it will be healthier – often the smaller ones are best.
Generally speaking, you will pay a similar price for one seedling as you will pay for a whole packet of seeds, and that one packet of seeds may produce dozens of plants. You will be able to grow so much more from seed, without it becoming a financial burden. This is particularly important if you are trying to achieve a more self-sufficient lifestyle. Seeds can also be stored for long periods if left in a cool, dry place - you may notice some seeds can last a few seasons when stored properly. So if you didn’t end up having time to plant them all, you can have another go at it next season! If you want to go a step further, instead of pulling out a plant when it starts to go to seed, wait for those precious seeds to dry out and collect them! You can then store those seeds and raise your very own seedlings next season. We have some gorgeous seed saving envelopes that have been designed specifically for this!
Seeds are much lighter than seedlings and hence use less energy in their transportation. They also use less packaging and water in their production. As I mentioned above, many of the seedlings we have access to have not been grown organically, which generally means chemicals have been used in one form or another during their production. When in doubt – ask your local nursery if they have organic seedlings - or check out your local farmers market, chances are they have grown them without harmful chemicals and have used organic soils.
Another cool thing about seeds is that you can grow them in compostable pots like toilet rolls or egg cartons – then plonk the whole thing straight into the soil when they are ready to plant!
Most of the time, we grow way more seedlings than we can plant. This means that our friends, family and neighbours get to reap the benefits! So if you know other gardeners, why not offer to trade some seedlings or produce? Food security is such a key issue and a very broad one – growing your own food, purchasing heirloom, non-GMO seeds, producing less waste, sharing your bounty, composting – all these things help us reconnect with our food, enhance our soils, improve diversity and are important steps for our health, and the health of future generations. Have you checked out ‘crop swapping’ in your local area? All you need to do is find your local ‘crop swapping’ group on Facebook, join, then post any excess produce you have and whether you want it picked up – someone in your local area may want to swap your excess zucchini for some eggs, or perhaps some homemade olive oil for blackberries – it’s a very cool way of reducing waste and sharing within our community!
Weather – it’s unpredictable
Sometimes weather patterns change, it can feel like winter in the middle of spring and the seasons even change year to year (if you’re in Melbourne this seems more like day to day...) When you plant from seed inside your house, or in a greenhouse, your plants are getting a healthy head start on life, without being at the mercy of an unexpected cold or dry snap. We know that spring can be a great time to start seeds, but sometimes it may be too wet or a late display of winter arrives, so having an indoor space to do this means you aren’t battling the seasonal changes, and it means you can have them ready to go when the weather improves. Hot tip – before planting your seedlings it’s a good idea to transition them out of your greenhouse or indoor space to adjust to the weather conditions and harden off.
Emotional benefits (aka that‘new bud buzz’)
Okay, I’m not a psychologist, so you can take or leave this. But from my experience, planting seeds, and spending time watching them and watering them - is a very peaceful exercise. It doesn’t involve driving anywhere, or navigating parking or crowds. I even compare it to practising mindfulness - when you are growing your seeds and caring for them, this allows you to be in the moment and connected to what you’re doing, as well as to your garden and nature as a whole. Not to mention the amazing benefits of getting your bare hands in the dirt. It’s a different experience to going to a shop, coming home and whacking them straight in the garden – again there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this – I just think there’s a deeper connection to be enjoyed when you start from seed. Plus, the buzz you get when that first little bud pops out of the soil is pretty damn awesome.
Have we convinced you yet? If you’re keen to have a go at trying some heirloom, non-GMO, open pollinated seeds, you can buy them here! They also make a great gift for any garden lovers in your life!
If you like the idea of all this but would like to do a bit more research, we have some great books that will help you do just that, take a look here!
PLANT, SNAP, POST!
We want you to show us how they grow! All you need to do is follow us on Facebook and Instagram, plant your seeds, snap a photo and post with the hashtag #throwsomeseeds – we give spontaneous prizes to our favourite pics!
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