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Practice Patience: Start from Seed

seedlings2This time of year you'll find me in the garden staring at the ground.  To the casual observer it would seem as though I was looking at bare soil, but I'm scanning diligently for a slight bulge in the surface or a tiny sprout breaking through towards the sun.  I then check soil moisture and temperature levels, apply water as needed, and pull a few weeds.  This is my life with direct seeding, although gardening was not always this easy or enjoyable.

I used to populate my garden with vegetable seedlings from a local nursery, which is common practice for many backyard gardeners.  This would often involve numerous trips to two or three places to find what I wanted to grow that year, and in many cases I'd have to compromise and purchase what was available. A few times I started my own seedlings indoors but this method was time and space intensive and often resulted in spindly looking plants.  Despite my garden usually doing well, I was just not satisfied with either of these methods or their results.

I've since converted mostly* to direct seeding, having stepped away from the "but I want it now" mentality of gardening.  For me, direct seeding vegetables in my garden is one part growing food and one part therapy.  In my busy world, direct seeding reminds me to slow down, have trust, and practice patience.  This method also allows me to diversify what I grow in my garden, and requires that I have more awareness of the seasons, the soil, and natural cycles.  I also have more satisfaction come harvest time with direct seeding.

Need more reasons to give direct seeding a try?  Check out the list below.

Top 10 Reasons to Direct Seed

  1. Get an early start.  Most nurseries and local suppliers offer limited cool season crop seedlings, or they offer them at the wrong times.  Direct seeding allows you to extend the growing season into the early spring and early winter.
  2. Diversify your crops.  While the selection of seedling varieties might be limited, the selection of seeds seems endless.  Look around both locally and online for seeds, and don't forget about rare, native, and heirloom species.
  3. Save space. If you've ever started your own seedlings in a greenhouse or indoors, you know it can be a space intensive operation- especially if you are using plastic trays and special lighting.  Direct seeding can eliminate these supplies and the need for storage when they are not in use.
  4. Save time.  Direct seeding allows you to eliminate "the middle man" so to speak, by just planting in the garden in the first place instead of planting seeds in trays and then transplanting seedlings into the garden.  Also, driving around town to find the vegetable starters you want takes a lot of time, while seeds can easily be ordered online.
  5. Save money.  A packet of seeds costs about the same as a 4 pack of vegetable starts, and you get way more than 4 seeds!
  6. Make friends.  Since seed packets often contain too many seeds for the casual backyard grower, you can share extra seeds with friend and neighbors.
  7. Have healthier plants. Many crops (such as carrot, beans, corn, squash, beets and more) prefer to be direct seeded, while others (such as tomatoes and peppers) do just fine being transplanted.  
  8. Increase awareness.  Direct seeding causes you to have a different relationship with the seasons, your soil conditions and garden microclimates.
  9. Get excited.  There is nothing more thrilling than the day your peas finally emerge, or your lettuce patch sprouts.
  10. Practice patience.  The seeds will come up when they are ready.  You'll just have to wait and trust in nature to do its magic.

Depending on the type of gardener you are, as well as your lifestyle and planting preferences, you may find that you prefer other planting methods over direct seeding, or that you only want to direct seed certain crops.  You never know- you may also become a direct seeding advocate.  It's your garden- do what you enjoy and what works well for you!

* I still plant tomatoes, eggplant and green chiles from seedlings, as I find they don't do well being direct seeded. Everything else is direct seeded including: spinach, lettuce, beets, chard, turnip, carrot, bok choy, peas, beans, pumpkin, cucumber, onions, summer and winter squash, herbs, and flowers. 

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