Debbie Clark

These hosta seeds are growing in a seed starting mix in sanitized containers on a plant heat mat. You can start to see some of the seeds germinating.

It’s that time of year when the seed and plant catalogs arrive in the mail. The catalogs entice us with pictures of beautiful plants. So many plants to choose from and not enough money. Why not start plants from seeds? Growing from seed can save you money and provide you with lots of plants.

When growing from seed, start with a good soil mix designed for seed starting. You can purchase seed starting mix at most nurseries or big box stores. You can recycle old seed trays, cell packs or flower pots but they much be scrubbed with detergent, rinsed in bleach water and air dried. You can purchase seed trays, Styrofoam or plastic drinking cups to grow in. The key is sanitized growing containers and a good seed starting mix.

Now have some fun, and start looking for seeds that you would like to grow. You can purchase online or at local stores. Make sure that your seed is fresh. If you saved seed from last year’s garden, make sure it has been cleaned and stored correctly. Older seed may have a lower germination rate.

These hosta seedling are growing and are very healthy. Watch for insect pest that can kill your seedlings.

Read your seed package for zone, frost dates, and follow the instructions for planting. Some seed may grow better when planted directly in the garden soil and other seed may need to be started inside the house weeks before the last frost date. Be aware that some seedlings do not do well being transplanted and some seeds may need to be refrigerated prior to planting.

When planting seeds inside, use clean containers or cell packs and pre-dampen your soil mix. Plant you seeds, one seed per cell or several seeds in one container. As your seeds grow, you may need to do an additional transplanting to larger containers. Do not overwater or allow soil to dry out.

During the time your seeds are germinating, keep pots covered to control moisture with lids or plastic wrap. Don’t forget to label your container with the name of the seed you are growing. Watch for insect infestations like Spider Mites or Fungus Gnats. I use a heating mat designed for growing seeds because it helps with germination and a stronger root system. Place your seed containers in a warm area that is well lit but not direct sunlight.

If you grow seeds inside, you will need to move your seedlings outside as the weather improves and you are past frost and low temperatures. Place the seedlings in a shaded and protected area. After a few days slowly move the plants out into stronger light and then into the garden bed.

You can grow seeds in a window or under lights. It you grow near a window, watch for cold drafts.

If you plant outside, lightly rake the soil and plant your seed according to the correct depth and outdoor temperature on the seed package. Lightly water and wait for germination. Make sure you check your seed daily for water.

If you have extra seedlings, share them with friends or swap with friends for other plants for your garden.

Debbie Clark is a North Carolina Master Gardener. Visit her blog at: