We all know how easy it can be to drive down to the local garden center and pick up a few “six packs” of tomatoes and petunias to start a home garden. But for many gardeners, the benefits of starting their own seedlings far outweigh this convenience. If you do not already, below are five reasons to consider starting your own plants this year.
Nurseries tend to only stock a small number of tried-and-true varieties that people are familiar with. ‘Big Boy’ hybrids are often the only tomatoes to be found on green house shelves vs. the color and flavorful heirloom varieties like “Brandywine’ and ‘Currant gold Rush’ found in seed catalogs. When you start your own seeds the varieties are limitless.
Johnny’s Seed and Seed Savers Exchange are both great seed sources that offer many organic varieties.
2. Earlier Harvests and Blooms
No need to wait for the soil to dry out before playing in the dirt again! By starting your own seeds indoors, you give your garden a head start and can enjoy harvests and blooms earlier in the season.
When should I start my seeds indoors? Seed packets and catalogs will give you seed starting information specific to the variety you have chosen. Typically, tomatoes and peppers should be started 6-8 weeks before the average last frost date, which for Southeastern Wisconsin is around May 20th. This means you still have time to start some this year!
3. Save Money
Even after factoring in the cost of seeds, soil, and trays, growing your own transplants is still cheaper. At the garden center an individual tomato seedling will cost between $1.50 and $3 while a packet of 50 organic, heirloom tomatoes seeds is $2.75
Want to save even more money? Save your own seeds from year to year! (See number five)
4. Organic Growing Practices.
For those of us who grow organically, finding organic seedlings is a significant first step in the process and it is rare to find a nursery that produces organic seedlings. If we place a value on knowing the source of our food, why should the origin of the plants that grow our food be any different?
5. Saving Seeds.
Saving plant seeds from year to year is not only a great way to save money, but it helps save the genetic diversity of our plant crop heritage by developing generations of plants well suited to our specific bio region.
The majority of plants available at nurseries are hybrids; a cross between two parent species, bred for choice characteristics like showy flowers. Due to the hybridization of these plants, their offspring (seeds collected) will not be true to the parent form, as would plants that reproduce through open pollination (bees, insects, wind). By choosing and starting openly pollenated or heirloom seeds, gardeners are able to save seed year to year.
Interested in learning more about seeds, saving your own seed and receiving new varieties to test out?
On April 20th, the experts from Seed Savers Exchange will be leading a seed saving workshop and seed swap at Wellspring Organic Farm and Education Center.
Wet and dry seed saving techniques will be taught in addition to a discussion on the importance of saving seed and preserving our food crop heritage. By the end of the workshop, participants will have the skills to begin saving their own seeds from season to season.
A seed swap will also take place following the workshop. Feel free to bring any untreated seeds to share with the group and expect to go home with some new varieties regardless! This will be a great opportunity to mingle with other local food enthusiasts and gardeners!
For more details and to register, please visit www.wellspringinc.org or call (847) 946-5565.
Want to purchase Ark of Taste Seedlings?
Slow Food WiSE has been working with Weber’s Greenhouses to have grow out six varieties of plants on the Ark of Taste list:
- Amish Paste Tomato
- Aunt Ruby’s Green Tomato,
- Beaver Dam Pepper
- Sheepnose Pimiento Pepper
- Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry
- Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce
Click here to order your Ark of Taste veggies to plant in your Victory Garden Initiative raised bed!