Why plant from seed? More choices and lower cost

The second week of April means you still have time to start warm-season flowers and vegetables from seed for setting out into the garden this summer. In our climate starting seeds indoors is easy – but giving them enough sunlight to prevent them from growing too tall or leggy is the challenge.

If you don’t have a sun-filled greenhouse then the brightest window or overhead lights can provide the light that seedlings need. Planting seeds indoors this week means you’ll have young flower seedlings to set out by mid-May and tomato starts ready for outdoor life by the beginning of June when the nights have warmed up.

So why plant from seed when nurseries are stocked with young plants ready to grow?

Planting from seed gives you more choices – and black carrots!

Ever tried a black carrot? Carrots do best when planted from seeds directly into the soil (they hate to be transplanted – that deep tap root gets in the way) and you can only try the “Black Nebulal” carrot if you grow it from seed. Lucky for us Western Washington gardeners, local seed company Ed Hume Seeds has black carrots along with a rainbow of other choices including “Solar Yellow,” “Chantenay Red” and “Scarlet Nantes Coreless.”

Ed Hume offers growing tips on the back of all his seeds and for carrots he suggests planting in mid-spring – that would be right now.

Loosen the soil to a depth of 12 inches and don’t try to grow carrots in clay or rocky soil. Be sure to thin the seedlings when they are 2 to 3 inches tall – carrot seedlings look like narrow blades of grass. Harden your heart and pull up the baby carrots so the remaining plants are 2 to 3 inches apart.

Planting from seed is the dirt cheap way to cover your earth with flowers

Flowers growers will save the world. We need more pollinator plants for our bees, birds and butterflies and more beauty to soothe the soul in a troubled world.

A packet of flower seeds cost less than a latté, and the results are priceless. You don’t even need to buy potting soil, pots and fertilizers to create a flower-filled garden.

Instead of purchasing plants, improve your soil with fallen leaves, grass clippings and home made compost and then plant seeds of the easiest to grow flowers for our area. Follow the planting time and spacing suggestions on the seed pack.

Easiest to grow flowers from seed

Sunflowers: there are so many varieties if you grow from seed, including short and compact sunflowers and branching varieties like “Autumn Beauty,” perfect for cutting. Give sunflowers a sunny site and heed this tip from Ed Hume: Protect the new seedlings from birds and slugs until they are at least 6 inches high.

Zinnias: seeds will sprout in 10 days if you plant them into warm soil that is fertile and well drained. Zinnias make excellent cut flowers and are magnets for pollinators.

Nasturtiums: Like sunflowers, the large seeds make these summer bloomers easy for kids (and adults) to plant and unlike many flowers nasturtiums will flower even in rather poor soil. They do like sun.

Lobelia: If you want flowers for a shaded part of the garden lobelia is not only easy to grow from seed but adapts to shade as well. The dwarf (5 to 6 inches) Crystal Palace lobelia is the most popular of all as the brilliant compact plants will be covered with blue to purple flowers all summer and into the fall.

Just barely cover the tiny seeds with soil. Planting too deep is the main reason for seed sprouting disappointment.

Godetia: Growing flowers from seed means you can grow something different from what the neighbors pick up at the big box stores.

A packet of Godetia seeds can fill a bed with pink, red, purple and white blooms on compact plants that make great cut flowers. Plant the variety called “Monarch” (yes, butterflies love them) and keep the seed pack handy as everyone will want to know the name of the beautiful and exotic-looking blooms.

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