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Buy Seeds, Not Plants

Buy Seeds, Not Plants

By The Home Garden Seed Association

Sometimes growing from seed is not just an option— it’s a necessity.

The spectacle of a cilantro plant in a 4-inch pot with the same price tag as a similar-sized pot of rosemary or sage is comical... and not a little objectionable. Taprooted plants like cilantro respond to the stress of transplanting by immediately bolting. They can and should be sown directly into the garden soil. This herb is a member of a sizeable but (botanically speaking) mostly unrelated class of edible and ornamental plants that are most successful when planted from seed. This better-from-seed clan is a good one to get to know, especially in these times of shrinking budgets.

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Choose Seeds Over Started Plants- It's Easy

The garden plant industry caters to the mass-market; seed catalogs, online seed companies and garden center seed racks offer a greater range of choices to the adventurous gardener. If you want your garden to stand out from the crowd, bypass the plant shelf and indulge in the abundant offerings of the seed rack. The list of vegetables and flowers that are actually easier to grow from seed is a long one. If a flower or herb readily self-sows, it is on the list. If a vegetable has an edible root, tasty leaves, or produces pods, it is likely on the list as well.

Start with our list of easiest plants to grow from seed and you’ll quickly learn that a little pack of seeds yields a season of big satisfaction. Dare to experiment. Whether your aim is food, fashion, or fun, a seed-grown garden offers an unbeatable return on investment.

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Better-from-Seed Flowers

For a colorful landscape at a minimal expense, purchase a pack or two of each of the following, and sow them as soon as the weather is warm and settled in spring:

Bachelor’s buttons: Full sun; 1-3 ft. tall; pink, blue, white, and even near-black.

Cleome: Full sun; 3-5 ft. tall; pink, white, purple.

Cosmos: Full sun; 1-6 ft. tall; pink, white, dark rose, red, yellow, orange.

Four o’clock: Full sun to part shade; 2-4 ft. tall; pink, magenta, white, yellow, lime green, variegated and broken colors.

Larkspur: Full sun; 2-5 ft. tall; pink, white, purple, blue.

Marigolds: Full sun; 8 in.-3 ft. tall; yellow, orange, cream.

Sunflower: Full sun; less than 2 ft. to more than 10 ft. yellow, gold, cream, orange, red, burgundy, bicolor.

And a few more: amaranth, calendula, morning glory, nasturtium, nigella, zinnia.

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Better-from-Seed Herbs

Direct-sown herbs yield many bunches of seasoning leaves and the winter hardy herbs will come back the next year:

Arugula: Sow seeds in a wide row from spring through early summer, and again in fall. Each row can be cut multiple times for a spicy/nutty salad addition.

Chervil: One of the few herbs that appreciates a little shade in summer. Sow fresh seed in moist but well drained soil in early spring or late summer—the lacy leaves grow in abundance when the nights are cool. Chervil gives a delicate anise flavor to poultry, new potatoes, baby beans, or just about anything.

Dill: This herb is as striking as it is useful. Sow dill seed in full sun, keeping in mind that it tops out at about 3 feet. Plant anytime during the growing season; dill thrives in spring and early summer, and summer–sown seeds will often yield exuberant fall fronds.

Summer savory: Easy to grow yet rarely cultivated. Sow summer savory in full sun in late spring, keeping the soil evenly moist until the delicate seedlings can hold their own. By summer’s end, the patch will provide you with more of the narrow thyme-like leaves than you can use. They are a flavorful addition to soups and stews, dips and marinades, vegetables, fish, and many other dishes.

And a few more: basil, borage, chives, cilantro, garlic chives, oregano, parsley, thyme.

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Roots from Seed

Root crops are tasty, nutritious, and come in a wide variety of textures and flavors. Start with these for satisfying results:

Beet: Sow successive crops from spring through late summer. They will mature quickly to a harvestable size if seedlings are thinned to about an inch apart. Leaves are tasty, too.

Carrot: The best thing about growing your own carrots is the satisfaction you can get from serving not just orange, but red, yellow, and purple roots. Sow successive crops and thin to about an inch apart. At the end of the season, pile straw on your carrot bed and harvest until the ground freezes.

Radish: Like carrots, radishes come in an array of colors. Plant the seeds about an inch apart as soon as the soil can be worked in spring, and you’ll have fresh radishes in your salads in a month.

Turnip: If you’ve never grown turnips before, start with one of the Japanese salad types, a quick maturing crop that’s best harvested small— from radish to ping-pong-ball size. The tops are every bit as tasty as the sweet roots. Sow seeds in both spring and fall.

And a few more: daikon, kohlrabi, parsnip.

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Easy Veggies From Seed

Seeds are the better option for most vegetables, if for no other reason than you get a lot more for your money! Remember to buy extra seeds for successive sowings.

Lettuce: Seeds can be sown thickly for baby greens, or thinned to 8-10 inches apart for heads. The colors and textures make as beautiful a display in the garden or pot as in a salad bowl.

Mizuna and other mustard greens: Grow mustards as you would arugula; being family members they have similar needs. Cut small for salads, or large for healthful braising greens.

Spinach: In many regions, spinach is more easily grown in fall than spring. With a blanket of mulch it has been known to winter over, even where winters are frigid. Sow seeds in rows and thin to 2-4 inches apart, eating the baby leaves. The dark green leaves are renowned for their rich iron and vitamin content—the fresher the leaves, the higher their nutritional value.

More vegetables that are easy from seed: Swiss chard, kale, peas, zucchini and other summer squash.

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Photos and story by Monrovia Nursery Company

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