My husband says that sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. This was certainly true two years ago when, ignoring all advice to start small and easy, I decided to start my first vegetable garden entirely from seed.
It didn't go as planned, but I'm determined.
Last summer, we moved and renovated a house. The only garden I had was a few pots sitting on the deck that mostly went neglected as we made trips back and forth between our old house, our hotel and the new house. This year, however, I will start again in earnest with our brand-new garden -- a total of eight raised beds with 136 square feet of growing space. Many very successful gardeners attribute their bountiful harvests to careful sourcing of healthy seedlings from their trusted nursery. While I think this approach is perfectly fine, I choose growing vegetables from seed for a number of reasons. Here are my top five.
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NEXT ⇒ More Control Over Your Food Supply
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Gaining control over your food supply is one of the major reasons why many people get into gardening. Growing vegetables from seed provides added control if you know where your seeds are coming from. Buying established plants can be risky, since you may not know how they were grown or if any chemicals were used. For example, In 2013, stores like Home Depot and Lowe's were caught selling "bee friendly" plants that were coated in chemical neurotoxins known to be harmful to bees!
NEXT ⇒ Better Variety
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Annual seed catalogs from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds or Territorial Seed offer a mind-blowing array of plant varieties from all over the world. I like eggplants with stripes, tomatoes that aren't perfectly round, and beans that are two feet long. You won't find anything this interesting at even the best nurseries. Growing vegetables from seed opens up a world of possibility for new flavors, textures and looks for your garden.
NEXT ⇒ Possibly Less Expensive
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You can buy an entire packet of seeds for less than $2, while one established seedling will cost at least that much. Notice I did not say that growing from seed is always less expensive. If you grow a large variety of plants, you will end up buying dozens of packets of seeds. You will also need to invest in some supplies like grow lights, heat mats and seed starting trays.
NEXT ⇒ Seed-to-table Education
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It's embarrassing for me to admit, but even for someone who studied science a lot in school, I knew very little as an adult about how plants become food. I forgot about cotyledons and seed leaves. I didn't know why new seedlings get leggy if you don't provide enough light overhead. I didn't know that those little "hairs" on the main stem of a tomato plant can become roots if planted properly. Growing vegetables from seed will give you quite an education about plant biology and a complete understanding of the seed-to-table cycle.
It's fun! What could be more fun and gratifying than watching the tiniest pepper seed grow into a mature plant loaded with glossy, flavorful heirloom peppers? Cutting up those peppers for a healthy stir fry, that's what! In the winter, starting seeds indoors can be a nice way to ease back into gardening. And, if you have young kids, they'll be so excited when those first seeds begin to sprout under the grow lights.
BONUS: If you have leftover seeds after the growing season, you can sprout them indoors for tasty additions to fresh salads all winter.
Besides all of this, I like a challenge. For me, successfully growing vegetables from seed represents the holy grail of garden achievement, particularly if it means providing food for Mr. President and me. What exotic varieties of seeds did you buy this year?
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