I have been growing my own vegetable seedlings for over three decades. One of the first things I do every morning this time of year is to water and pamper the nearly four hundred ( yes, 400) vegetable and flower seedlings that will be transplanted to the various gardens on our property over the Memorial Day weekend.
Lately, I’ve been asking myself “Why are you still doing this?” After some reflection, I have come up with the following reasons and have decided to share them with you:
- VARIETY. There are so many choices available for nearly every vegetable you can name, especially for tomatoes, peppers, squash, lettuce, cabbage, kale, and beans. Garden centers tend to carry only the most popular varieties. Starting your own seeds allows you to pick the varieties that appeal most to you. Some of my absolute favorites are “Tender Sweet” cabbage, “Rose” heirloom tomatoes, “Matt’s Wild Cherry” tomatoes, and “Little Gem” romaine lettuce. These are all varieties not generally found at garden centers
- GETTING A JUMP ON THE SEASON. Starting seeds indoors in March for mid-April transplanting outdoors has been one of my strategies for nearly twenty years. Leaf crops like kale, broccoli, cabbage and lettuce are particularly suitable for this approach. I also start “Glacier Extra Early” tomato seeds at the same time so that I can get them in the ground by May 1. Sometimes, the weather cooperates and tomatoes are reading for Father’s Day. Here in zone 6a, that’s called “miraculous”.
- COST. For the cost of purchasing a six pack of skinny tomato seedlings that are severely pot bound, you can purchase a packet of seeds that will provide you with 30 seedlings. A packet of tomato seeds last me three years. The average packet of lettuce seeds contains hundreds of seeds; a huge bargain. The same goes for flowers, herbs and just about anything else you would want to grow.
- THE SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT. There is something quite satisfying about planting seeds, watching them grow, setting them out in the garden, growing them to maturity, harvesting and then enjoying their fresh goodness. Beware, it’s very addictive.
- SHARING. Sometimes, I think of myself as the “Johnny Appleseed” of vegetable gardening. Over the last thirty years, I have given away hundreds of tomato, pepper and basil seedlings to family, friends, gardening buddies, work associates, and total strangers. Sharing is one of my greatest pleasures.
I know that I am probably preaching to the choir, but I felt the need to put this out there. Happy gardening.
All the best,