Seed sowing – The natural gardener

Posted on: 8th May, 2019

Category: News

Contributor: West Cork People

Noah Chase

With the warm weather finally here, and little chance of a late frost, now is a great time to start nearly any type of vegetable seed. Growing vegetables from seed is fun, and it’s a great way to save lots of money on gardening! There’s nothing like being able to walk out into your garden and harvest fresh vegetables to feed your family! But starting vegetable seeds can be intimidating and overwhelming for beginner and seasoned gardeners!

There are lots more varieties of vegetable seeds for sale at garden centres than there are starter plants in modules. So you can grow a great variety of vegetables that are not available elsewhere.

How to choose vegetable garden seeds

I know it sounds silly, but sometimes deciding which seeds to choose is the hardest part. It’s easy to get excited about all the cool vegetables you can grow, and forget to think practically. So, how can you narrow it down and choose what to grow? Stick with the basics, and choose vegetables that you know your family will eat. Also, when it comes to growing vegetables from seed the quality of the seed matters more than it does for flowers. So don’t try to cut costs here, it pays to spend a little more and buy high quality vegetable seeds. I also recommend that you get organic vegetable seeds whenever you can, however if you grow any seeds using organic gardening methods the end result will be delicious!  

Starting vegetable seeds -vs- buying garden starter plants

Another thing to think about before you start planting vegetable seeds is whether it makes sense for you to grow everything from seed. For larger amounts of any vegetable, always grow your own from seed if possible. However buying single plants (often for growing indoors) can work out more cost effective than buying a packet of seeds plus growing materials, not to mention saving time. Sometimes 12 lettuce is all you need not the 250 seeds in a packet!

When to plant seeds for your vegetable garden

Once you’ve decided which vegetables you’re going to grow, the next step is figuring out when to plant your seeds. Read the seed packets to find the recommend seed starting dates for each type of vegetable.

The dates will be different for starting vegetables indoors from seed -vs- planting them outdoors. The general rule of thumb for when to plant seeds indoors is six to eight weeks before your average last frost date.

Dates for starting seeds outdoors can range anywhere from four to six weeks before last frost for cold hardy seedlings. Seeds for vegetables that aren’t cold hardy shouldn’t be planted outdoors until after all threat of frost has passed in the spring.

Vegetable seed planting guide

Now that we know when to start our seeds, the next step is figuring out how to plant those seeds. There are basically two seed starting methods to think about: 1. starting vegetables indoors from seed, or 2. planting vegetable seeds outdoors directly into the garden (aka: direct sowing).

Every seed is different, so it’s best to determine which method will work the best for the types of seeds you’re growing. The seed packets should give you recommendations for which method to choose.

Planting vegetables indoors -vs- starting seeds outdoors

Sometimes it can be hard to decide which seed starting method is best, as there are pros and cons to both methods. The pros for planting vegetables indoors are that you can get a head start on growing plants that are slow to mature, but starting seeds indoors is difficult and seedlings require special care in order to survive the transition to the garden. If you do not have a glass house or tunnel, you will need to make room in the house for all those seed trays, propagators and heat mats, and other equipment that you need for growing seeds indoors. On the flip side, starting vegetables from seed outdoors is much easier because you don’t have to worry about making the room inside your house, or caring for freshly planted seedlings. But seeds started outdoors aren’t very well protected, and they could wash away in a heavy rain, or be eaten by animals or birds. There is no perfect method for starting seeds, it’s best to mix different methods to make seed starting work for you.

Best vegetable seeds to start indoors

The best types of vegetable garden seeds to start indoors are ones that need a long growing season in order to be productive, or seeds that require warm soil to germinate

Examples of seeds that usually grow best when started indoors are peppers, kale, aubergine, tomatoes, cucumber, pumpkin and squash, melon seeds, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and herbs like basil.

Best vegetables for starting seeds outdoors

The best types of vegetables seeds to start outdoors are ones that are fast growing, cold hardy, and those that hate to be transplanted.

Examples of vegetables that are easy to start outdoors are root crops like radishes turnips, swedes, carrots and beets.

Cold hardy seeds for salad greens and herbs like spinach, lettuce, rocket, leaf beet,  parsley and quick growing crops like corn, beans, peas, seeds are all great choices but be aware off mice and rats digging up larger seeds.

How to grow plants from seeds step-by-step

Regardless of which method you choose for starting vegetable seeds, the actual steps for planting the seeds will be the same (and really, this is the easiest part of the whole process!). Here are some basic steps for planting vegetable seeds…

Prepare the soil: If you’re starting vegetables from seed outdoors, loosen up the top few inches of soil and dig a shallow trench to add your seed compost to. This will give the seeds a great start and remind you where your rows are later as you try to figure out which are weeds and which are your seedlings!

If you’re planting them indoors, use a quality seed starting compost, you may choose a peat free option here. I like to add some perlite or vermiculite to the compost at this stage to increase drainage and aeration. If you are using modules or seed trays (there are also many recycled household waste options for containers, eg. Egg boxes, newspaper, etc) be sure to firm, not pack the compost. Place the container in a warm spot, or on a heat mat.

1. Plant the seed: A general rule of thumb here is to plant a seed twice as deep as it is wide. You can make a hole in the soil first and drop your seeds into it, or lay the seeds on top of the soil and gently press them in (tiny seeds can just be sprinkled over the top of the soil).

2. Cover the seeds: Once you’re done planting, cover your vegetable seeds with soil, and gently pack the soil down over them. Cinnamon and or powered charcoal can also be sprinkled on the surface to avoid  ‘damping off’ of seedlings.

3. Add water: If the soil isn’t already damp, water your seeds using a gentle stream of warm water, being careful not to disturb or wash away the seeds. It is best to use a fine watering can rose attachment at this stage.

As the seedlings appear, make sure they do not dry out. Check in the morning and evening and water using warm water. If using containers, place them in full sun and gradually harden them off by placing outside for a few hours each day. Be sure to keep a sharp eye out for slugs and snails, as they can destroy an entire crop in a single night. We find ferric phosphate pellets very effective and are safe for humans and pets. Rodents can also cause serious damage at this stage. Traps can be set and containers should be placed in suitable locations. If you find the seedlings need to be thinned, use the thinnings as micro greens for a tasty addition to salads. Out of date vegetable seed packets can also be used for a pot luck early harvest of delicious micro greens!

If all the above sounds like too much hassle, or you don’t have the time, call into Deelish Garden Centre, as we a huge selection of starter plants from €2.50 as well as a fantastic range of seeds (mostly organic) and all the sundries to help you on your way to growing your own Deelishious vegetables, that don’t have to cost the earth!

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