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Growing from Seed — Easy and Only Pennies per Plant

When I started gardening 35 years ago — most seed starting (especially flowers) was something I mentally ascribed to experienced gardeners with greenhouses and/or grow lights who ” really knew what they were doing”.

If only I had known how easy it is to grow from seed — I could have grown every plant I ever wished for —- and for mere pennies.

Somehow lettuce, radishes, beans and cukes were never intimidating.  After a few years, I starting raising my tomatoes from seed — although they were never ready to plant until almost July. I’d buy a 6-cell-pack to get an early start. Since I had no green house or grow lights I thought I couldn’t start them early enough to place in the garden by May.

Most of my perennials I bought wholesale at reasonable prices. (I sell perennials.)

Why Start from Seed?

The incentive to start all my plants from seed came when I found out that big chemical companies were (are) buying up as many seed companies as will sell to them in the hopes of controlling the seed.  (Control the food — control the world.)

When the large seed company Seminis sold out to Monsanto I mentally projected to the future. I decided it was definitely in my best interest to know how to start all my plants from seed AND to save my own seed whenever possible.

No Green House or Grow Lights?

I didn’t have a green house  or grow lights.  In late 2010 A reader of TMG sent me a link showing someone using gallon plastic jugs like mini greenhouses.  I started experimenting. After having some success I discovered many gardeners worldwide already knew the secret and called it Winter Sown.  (See my post You can Plant in December.)

What can you Winter Sow in December?

All of your perennials can be started via winter sown.  Any annuals that tend to reseed themselves will also do well with this method. (Hardy annuals like snapdragons.)

Perennial herbs winter sown in December or January do very well.  I never had much luck starting the seed of lavender, rosemary, thyme, and other herbs before I started them via the winter sown method.

Tender Annuals are Better started in Early Spring

Seedlings of tender annuals like zinnias are easily killed by frost.  So wait until the weather warms in early spring (about 8 weeks before you’d transplant to the garden) to sow these via the wintersown method.

Cold Stratification

Many perennial seeds need cold stratification before they’ll germinate.  In other words they need to be subjected to a moist cold period.  Obviously the easiest way to do this is to sow the seed where you want it in the fall. That’s what nature does.  Then they’ll come up in the spring.

(In the past I’ve put seeds that need cold stratification in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 months so they’ll be ready to break dormancy when planted in the spring.)

If you prefer to keep tighter control over your seedlings and transplant to specific spots – the wintersown method is perfect.

Your seeds will freeze and thaw.  This serves to loosen the seed coatings and allows the seed to germinate.  As spring approaches — and the nights are still freezing, seedlings will start to emerge.

Watering

I water the grow mix thoroughly before I plant. As a rule – I don’t water after that until the weather gets warm and I take the tops off.  I might have 6 jugs out of more than a 100 that dry out before spring.  If that happens — I cut the tape and remove the top of the jug— water gently (but thoroughly) — and re-tape the jug.

A reader of TMG told me last year that the grow mix in her jugs dried out and she had to continually water almost all her jugs.  She also mentioned that she doesn’t tape the bottom and top of the jug together.  Possibly that could account for the grow mix drying out.

Identifying your Seedlings

It can be a bit upsetting to have dozens (or hundreds) of seedlings in the spring and not be able to identify them.  To avoid this I put identifying tags inside the jugs and also write the identification on the outside of the jug.

Most magic marker inks will fade in the weather.  To avoid this — I cover what I write on the jug with shipping tape.  A little extra work but at least I can identify the plants in the spring.

Final Thoughts

Perennials have greatly increased in cost over the past 5 years.  Rather than buy 1 or even a 6-cell-pack of one plant — why not buy a package seed and try your hand at wintersown.  The seed and grow mix will be your biggest expense. Nature does most of the work — so you can’t fail.

Give it some thought.  It’s about time to plant so you can reap the rewards this summer.

Related Posts:

Monsanto – Don’t Entrust Your Life to Them

You Can Plant in December

Looking at Winter Sown Seedling and the Garden

Warm Weather Crops and the Winter Sown Method

Seed Starting – Another Variation of Winter Sown

Winter Sown – Another Plus

Transplanting Root Crop Seedling

Wintersown and Garden Report – Radishes – Lettuce – Spinach

Seed Starting – It’s Easy Even with Less than Perfect Conditions

Winter Sowing – It Begins and Vegetable Tidbits

Seed Starting – The Easy Wintersown Way

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6 comments to Growing from Seed — Easy and Only Pennies per Plant

  • Sandra

    Theresa,
    I have had success with Poppies, zinnias, milkweed, marigold and Shasta Daisies. The easy ones. I hope I can branch out this year a bit more. I’d like to try purple coneflower, for one. I especially like the idea of saving on perennials by doing this. Thanks for the timely burst of enthusiasm.

  • Theresa

    You’ll be very successful with echinacea (purple coneflower),Sandra.

    I always thought (or had heard) that echinacea was hard to grow from seed. Nothing could be further from the truth. Wintersown gives them the conditions they need to germinate and they’ll do so easily!

    I remember the first ones I had come up via the wintersown method. I was so excited! You’ll be too when your come up.

    Sow them ASAP
    Theresa

  • Jack

    first can’t wait for your book
    (can I get a signed copy) second do you have an illustration of your jug

  • Theresa

    Hi Jack,
    This will show you pictures of the jugs. http://tendingmygarden.com/you-can-plant-in-december/
    And yes, I’d be happy to sign your book. When it comes time to order — just remind me.
    Let me know if you need more help with wintersown.
    Theresa

  • Mary Fisher

    New moon today, I’ll be sowing seeds! Not in our sodden soil though (constant rain for more than a month) but in compost in seed trays.

    Mary

  • Theresa

    Sounds like you’ve had more rain than you want Mary!
    But those seeds will be happy in the seed trays you’ve provided.
    Wishing you a great growing year.
    Theresa

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