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(NC)-If you only draw on local resources of bedding and potted plants, you're likely missing a huge variety of plant types ... beautiful, healthy flowers and vegetables that are often only available as seed.
Many veteran gardeners prefer to grow from seed, for a number of reasons:
Gardeners who grow from seed also claim their plants are healthier and hardier.
Here's a brief "how to" guide to get you started:
Pick up a supply of growing trays and mini-pots at your garden centre. Make sure they're the kind that allow good drainage. Also get some sterilized potting soil - important to prevent seedlings being attacked by soil-borne disease or fungus. Another staple for experienced growers is No-Damp, a fungicide used on seedlings to prevent a common fungal plant disease called damping-off.
Depending on the type of plant, start seeds 4 to 8 weeks before the last frost if you plan to move them outdoors. If you plan to keep your plants inside, start anytime.
Nearly-fill each compartment of your tray/mini-pots with sterilized soil. Sprinkle a few seeds into each compartment/pot and cover with a little soil. Water well and cover each tray/pot with clear plastic. Store in a warm place.
Once the seedlings have appeared, uncover them and move to a sunny spot, turning trays/pots regularly.
Transfer to larger pots when the seedlings are 7-9cm (3-4 inches) tall.
Moving seedlings into the garden:
Two weeks before you're ready to transplant, 'harden" your new seedlings by taking them outdoors for a few hours each day.
It's a good idea to prepare your garden soil a couple of weeks ahead of planting, too. Tilling the soil early will fool weeds into germinating early, and you can then pull them to reduce competition with your seedlings. When there is no longer any risk of frost, take the seedlings out of the pots and plant them into the garden. Use a special transplanting fertilizer such as Wilson Transplanter with Roots to stimulate root growth and reduce transplant shock.
Water regularly (but don't over water) and feed with a high quality fertilizer like PINK All-Purpose Garden Food. Perennials started from seed will usually re-grow larger the following spring, and spread rapidly if conditions favour their growth. You can also try harvesting seeds from your annual plants and vegetables (except for hybrid varieties) for replanting the following year. Dry the seeds slowly, and store them in a cool, dry place over winter. Then repeat the same planting steps outlined earlier.
Give seeds a try this spring. It's a great way to increase your gardening satisfaction ...and a good activity for children too!