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News / Life / Clark County Life

Gardening With Allen: Usually cheaper to plant seeds

By Allen Wilson, Columbian freelance writer
Published: March 30, 2024, 6:05am

My parents and grandparents used to plant most vegetables and a lot of flowers from seed instead of transplants. Are there advantages to starting some things from seed?

I am probably the age of your parents or grandparents and I still start many things from seed for a variety of reasons. But it is more convenient and less work to buy transplants.

The most important reason I plant seeds is because I always like to plant some of the newest varieties, which are not available as transplants. It is usually cheaper to plant seeds than plants. However, you usually do need to plant sooner. Another reason I plant seeds is I simply get excited watching plants develop through their entire growth process.

I start a lot of seeds inside in a west-facing window. I supplement the daylight with grow lights, which I leave on up to 24 hours a day. I plant tomato seeds about the first of March. I start putting them outside in the daytime when they are about a month old. I bring them back in at night. I put them in the shade for the first week until they get used to outdoor conditions. The combination of cool bright days and warm nights makes plants grow more compact. I have some very nice size 4-inch tomato plants by early May.

I plant squash and cucumber seeds inside about March 25. I plant two seeds in each 4-inch pot. They start going outside in the daytime about mid-April and are ready to plant outside by early May.

Last year, I started seven different perennial flowers from seed inside starting in May. They were transplanted outside in early summer and will be ready to bloom this year.

I plant most of my cold hardy vegetables from seed directly outside in early March. Cold hardy vegetables include peas and all the root, leaf, and flower bud vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, radish, beets, carrots, cabbage, and broccoli. Seeds germinate after about three weeks and will withstand temperatures to the mid-20s. You can purchase some of these hardy vegetables as transplants by mid-March.

I always plant my alyssum from seed in rows directly outside. Many other annual and perennial flowers are also easily started from seed directly outside. These include bachelor’s button, baby’s breath, calendula, candytuft, cleome, columbine, coreopsis, cornflower, cosmos, shasta daisy, delphinium, dianthus, four o’clock, gaillardia, hollyhock, larkspur, lupine, marigold, nasturtium, phlox, poppy, portulaca, sedum, strawflower, sweet pea and zinnia. I sometimes sow seeds in small square-foot patches covered with bark dust or peat moss mulch and then transplant seedlings where I want them to grow. Seeds need daily sprinkling unless it rains.

Columbian freelance writer