Growing from seed is fun — when it works

Baby zinnia grown from seed

I just can’t think of any gardening that is more fun than growing from seed. That is, of course, when the outcome is what you expect. There are some simple ways to make seed growing a good experience. When you can master “the seed,” you can start your garden earlier in the season, have plants that are unique and make sure that everything is grown organically. 

With all of the varieties of seeds available, you can experiment with different flavors, shapes and colors that you won’t be able to find in most nurseries. My favorite thing is to beg friends for seeds and try growing them myself. A good friend of mine who has family in Mexico gifted me with some very interesting seeds from near Monterrey that I’m trying this year.

Most all experienced seed gardeners will say it’s important to keep it simple. Don’t take on too much at once. Some seeds that are thought to be the easiest to grow are basil, zinnia, coleus, nasturtium, morning glory and cosmos. Each seed has its own personality, so look at the directions on the seed pack for details. Some seeds like to be very close to the surface of the soil while others may want to be an inch or so under. And most seed packs say the number of days it will take for the veggie or fruit to mature, such as “45 days” or “60 days.”

Seedlings want lots of light, so if you start your seeds indoors, make sure to find a sunny window. Here in our part of the world, it is easier to start most seeds directly outdoors. We don’t have to wait until late April for warm weather. The timing for planting your seed is on the package too. For example, your directions may say, “Plant after last frost.” Seeds that are marked “Direct Sow” should to be started outdoors. These are most like beans and squash and some flowers, like morning glories. Just peak at the package.

Talking about seed packages, some are downright artistic. I love to very carefully get the seeds out and save the artwork for something. I’m not sure how to use them yet, but how beautiful the seed packs are! Maybe I’ll wallpaper a room with them someday …

You must decide if you are going to first plant the seeds into a container and then transplant them or just put them directly into wonderful, well-draining, fertile soil. If you start in a container, you can save the plastic containers from the nursery like I do or re-use yogurt cups, milk cartons or paper cups. Next, choose potting soil that is made for seedlings. It’s best to buy new, fresh, sterile mix and then moisten the planting mix. Fill your container of choice with soil and plant your seeds according to the package directions.

As your little seedlings grow, keep them moist and water with a very weak solution of liquid fertilizer. The seedlings will come in very thickly. It is hard to do, but you’ve got to pull some of the little ones out and thin the group. Be vigilant. Keep a close watch over your baby seedlings. I usually encircle the pot or small area with a small-scale chicken wire to give the seedlings a fighting chance from marauding animals. If you enjoy growing from seed, do what the experts do: Keep records to allow for better planning. Store seeds properly to maintain viability. Make sure your pots are clean before you use them. Good luck!

Mark your calendar

Texas Agri-Life Extension Agency has the first of its series of workshops on Saturday, March 18, at Beaumont Botanical Gardens from 8:30 a.m. – noon. Master Gardener Paul Eyre will be helping us all learn “How to Grow a Better Tomato.” The cost of the workshop is $15. Call (409) 835-8461 to RSVP or for information.