something satisfying about growing vegetables, herbs and flowers from
seeds, according to propagators.
planting seeds straight in the garden or starting them indoors, seed
starting opens a new doorway to your garden," says Lisa Ziegler
of The Gardeners Workshop, a cut-flower farm and online gardening
tool and seed shop www.shoptgw.com in southeastern Virginia.
success in the garden brings such satisfaction.
the experience of seed starting is one that many gardeners pass on.
Why? Because, as little and innocent as those seeds appear, they are
full of mystery and unknowns for the first-time or failed seed
Lisa and two other propagators say about successfully starting plants
Wendy Iles of
In March 2012,
long-time gardener Wendy began sharing the process of "seed to
table" with young and old residents in Hampton, Va. She founded
the nonprofit Hampton Grows www.HamptonGrows.org and has
helped put in at least five community and school gardens in the
southeastern Virginia city.
"I like to
start short-germinating seeds, like lettuces, peas, basils, green
beans and tomatoes," she says.
anything I can start growing after a blast of winter is an early
favorite. Spring peas can be started as soon as you can work the
soil, and taste so sweet and crunchy right off the vine. You can start
herbs in just about any sunny spot indoors. I love almost
instant gratification, and check daily for emerging seedlings."
To make the
seed-starting process really easy and economical, Wendy likes to show
how to start seedlings in empty cardboard toilet paper rolls:
supplies: empty toilet paper rolls, seeds, potting mix, permanent
marker and plant labels.
Fold in one
edge of the toilet paper roll.
Fold in the
opposite corner to create the bottom.
the soil and add more as needed to fill to ¾ full. Make a small hole
in the center.
seeds. Larger seeds are easier for kids or elderly to work with.
Drop one to
two seeds in each hole.
Popsicle stick, cover the seeds lightly.
blinds! Measure the blind and cut to fit your seedling
seedlings so theres no guess work.
blinds, Popsicle sticks or plant markers.
Set the pot
in a shallow bowl of water to keep from disturbing the seeds. Keep the
rolls damp, but not soaked.
can be planted directly into the ground or in a bigger pot and are
easy for small hands to manipulate without crushing the roots,"
Denise Greene of
Sassafras Farm in Gloucester Point, Va., where she specializes in
raising native plants, especially ones that provide habitat for bee,
birds and butterflies. If you visit Williamsburg this gardening
season, you will see her selling plants and wildflower garden kits
Saturday mornings at the farmers market on Merchants Square, just off
historic Duke of Gloucester Street. What she grows is adaptable
to most gardening regions nationwide as annuals or perennials,
depending on your cold hardiness zone.
"I put most
of my seeds in a plastic baggie in moist seed mix and refrigerate them
for 90 days to stratify them," says Denise, a member of the John
Clayton Chapter, Virginia Native Plant Society.
the better-known natives with this requirement are Asclepias tuberosa
(butterflyweed), Eupatorium maculatum (Joe-pye weed) and Solidago sp.
"Some of my
favorite lesser-known species that require this method are Eryngium
yuccifolium (rattlesnake master), Scutellaria ovata (heart-leaf
skullcap) and Silphium perfoliatum (cup plant)."
A few native
perennial species dont require any special treatment and are easy
for beginners, she continues. These include the Coreopsis species (her
favorite is Coreopsis pubescens, or star tickseed); Helianthus
(sunflowers; her favorite is Helianthus angustifolius, or
narrow-leaved sunflower) and Asters (she likes Symphyotricum leave, or
have a hard seed coat that requires scarification to allow them to
germinate. Denise uses the boiling water technique for those.
"I put the
seeds in a coffee mug, pour boiling water on them and soak them for 24
hours before planting them," she says.
favorites from this group are Hibiscus moscheutos, or rose mallow;
Kosteletskya virginica, or seashore mallow; Baptisia, or wild indigo;
and Lupinus perennis, or sundial lupine."
Lisa Ziegler of
The Gardeners Workshop:
foremost, buy seed from a reputable source, advises Lisa.
are handled and stored makes or breaks if a seed is viable when you
purchase it," she says.
store seed packets often lead to squashed dreams."
You should also
know how your seeds prefer to be started: germinated indoors and
transplanted outdoors as seedlings or sown directly in the garden.
"This is a
common reason folks fail," says Lisa.
seeds in the garden that perform best when started indoors or vice
seeds need to be covered with soil or just placed firmly on soil
label to see when seeds should be planted.
seedlings, give them what they need most: heat, light and good food.
provides fuel for your seedling to develop naturally into a strong
transplant," she says.
"We use a
seaweed/kelp fertilizer that is organic, which means it doesnt take
your plant from zero to 60 miles an hour in a day, but provides a
slow, steady supply of food that enriches growth and helps the plant
to become more self-sustaining with each application."
"Starting Seeds" helps you learn how to grow healthy,
productive vegetables, herbs and flowers from seed. New from Storey
Publishing, the softback book is geared for all level gardeners, and
is especially helpful to beginners. $8.95.
Seed-starting DVD with Lisa Ziegler features how to plant seeds in the
garden and how to use the soil-blocking technique to start seeds; 36
minutes; $14.95; heirloom and organic seeds; www.shoptgw.com or
Garden Bureau at www.ngb.org.
Cooperative Extension at