If you’re new to gardening, knowing the best vegetables to start from seed in your garden can be a rewarding and simple experience that is also good for the wallet! Learning to garden can feel like an overwhelming task- what to grow, how to tend the plants, caring for the soil, how to keep bugs away… If you’re starting a garden on a budget, you may also want to know the least expensive way to grow your own food. Enter the humble seed.
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Why grow plants from seed?
The reason most gardeners grow from seed is cost! Let’s consider a packet of cucumber seeds. Seed packets are usually sold by weight and not by number of seeds. For less than $3.00, a cucumber packet will contain between 30-40 seeds. If you’ve ever grown cucumbers, you know a few seeds go a long way! You’ll be pickling, giving away to neighbors, slicing to put in your water…. I digress.
For less than 50 cents per season, this will yield more cucumbers than you know what do with! You can see how this is not even comparable to what you would pay at the grocery store or farmer’s market, but what about growing a crop like this from a purchased plant? At my local gardening center, vegetables such as cucumbers or squash are sold in a six-pack for anywhere from $3.99 to $5.99. If you grow those same six plants from seed, it will cost you approximately 8 cents per seed, or less than 50 cents.
Another reason to grow from seed is the (almost) instant-gratification it brings. This is why seed-growing is such a delightful project to do with your kids. You place a seed ½ inch to an inch under the soil, lightly water it daily, and in just a few days, there is a lovely sprout making its way out of the soil!
I still delight every season in this process as I reflect on what a wonderful God I serve- He designed the provision of seed, to plant, to fruit, which produces yet more seed to start the whole process again for free if you choose to keep your seed!
How to start from seed in your garden
For the new gardener, direct sowing into your garden is the most simple place to start and gives almost immediate gratification. I have been gardening for twenty years, and still choose this method for most of my gardening because of its simplicity, not to mention the money saved!
For seeds that you choose to direct-sow into your garden or pot, it’s literally as simple as following directions on the seed packet. It will tell you how deep to place the seed and how far apart they should be planted. Kids love doing this job! You can get in a little math lesson with using a ruler to space the seeds, then let them use their little finger or a stick to poke a hole. fiSeeds are very forgiving (except the tiny carrot or lettuce seeds!) on how they get covered with soil, so there’s not a “wrong way to do it” should your kids want to do this part too. Just make sure the soil covers the seed loosely and doesn’t get packed down or it will take the seed longer to emerge, or could potentially rot before it reaches the surface.
The next step is to water in your seeds with a gentle flow of water, and to do so daily if you don’t get rain. You really just need to remember the magic growing formula: Water + light = plant growth. Without both of these in place, you will have spindly plants that will produce very little of anything edible. Most plants require 6-8 hours of sunlight to be happy, so plan your garden spot accordingly.
Which vegetable plants are best to grow from seed in your garden
Warm weather plants:
Beans (any type, whether green beans or legumes such as limas)
Squash (winter or summer)
Cool weather plants:
Peas-shelled, sugar snap or snow peas
There’s a reason this list is so short- cool weather plants are a bit tricky. I have found it pays off to purchase the six-pack of plants available during this season because they are already a decent size and have time to grow well and get harvested before frost. Some plants such as kale and collard greens do fine with frost, but lettuces will completely wilt and turn to mush, as will many types of spinach. Crops such as broccoli and cauliflower take a while to form their heads, so these also do best when purchased as plants.
If you have a designated spot for cool weather planting, such as a fall garden spot, you may have success with direct-sowing all of the plants mentioned above as the soil will be warm and you can plant much earlier. In this case, all cool weather plants can be started outside from seed. Beware if you live in a warmer climate that cool weather plants don’t do well in heat. They will either wilt or bolt (go to seed by producing a big flower), which makes them bitter.
The tricky seeds are the ones so tiny you can’t see where you’re sprinkling them! These include carrot, lettuce, and kale seeds. I’ve read a neat trick with these tiny ones- mix with sand in a salt shaker and sprinkle them on your soil. I’ve never actually tried this method, so please let me know if this has worked for you!
I hope this article has given you confidence in planting most of your garden using seeds. Next time you’re at the garden center seeing someone purchase a six-pack of squash or cucumber, you can smile to yourself at the amount of money you saved while witnessing the beauty of life spring up from the earth!