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Save money by planting from your own seed

Marigold seeds have just been planted in the garden. Planting seeds can save gardeners money. John Zvirovski / The Sun

Every year as I am planting the flower beds and gardens with flats of transplants, I wonder how much money I could save by planting many of my own from seed. Oftentimes I start certain items indoors, but life gets busy and I forget about them and then they die. Yes, this dilemma happens to me too!

One of the things to keep in mind is that some things are easier to grow than others from direct sowing of seed into the ground. Others take a little more time to get going and those are best started early indoors if you have the space — or simply  buy plants already started in the mass market.

Sometimes we tend to buy things out of laziness, or at least I do. Marigolds are one of the easiest plants to grow in the garden and so are zinnias, balsam, calendula, morning glories and moss roses to name a few. Items that are a little more difficult to start outside are salvia, begonia, coleus, geraniums, lisianthus and impatiens. These items I choose to purchase from a local vendor to keep my life simple and stress-free.

One of the key things to remember is the ground should be warm and the threat of frost past. Seeds germinate quicker if the ground is warm and there is adequate moisture to break the seed coats. Of course, warmer temperatures will also assist in making the plant grow at a faster rate once up and keep it sturdy and full.

Marigolds are the flowers that kids learn to grow in school as a science project to learn about growing plants. Of course, it is the bean that they grow to learn about raising vegetables. Both are easy to handle due to the size of their seeds and both will germinate within about five days if the soils are warm.

Always read the backs of the packages to find out how deep the seeds need to be planted and if they need full sun, part sun or shade. These are the main things to create success after the seeds are planted. Seeds are usually planted at a depth relative to their size. Large seeds are typically planted deeper than smaller seeds. Most seeds are planted at a depth of 1/4 to 1/8 of an inch deep.

Decide where you are going to plant your seeds and then create a furrow of the required depth to place your seeds. Many packages will tell you how far apart to space your seeds and then tell you to thin them to a further spacing once they are up for best growth and plant size. If you are just planting a group here and there and avoiding planting in rows, place a few seeds in each hole to make sure you get at least one to germinate in the desired location, then you can thin later.

Always place a marker where you plant the seeds so you can keep an eye out for them when they come up. So often we plant seeds and then forget where we planted them only to pull them up later when we are weeding, as we didn’t realize what they looked like when they came up. By placing a marker, you can pay attention to similar seedlings coming up in the spot where you planted them. This is also an educational process in learning what your young plants look like when they first emerge for future reference.

Very small seeds barely need to be covered by soil. If they are buried too deeply, they cannot push through the soil in order to survive. Items that have very small seeds are snapdragons, petunias, alyssum and moss roses. The best way to plant these is to gently shake the seeds onto the area you want them to grow and just press them into the soil, but not covering them. After doing this, lightly water them into the soil, but with a misting water spray and not with a forceful spray that will wash them away.

Seeds like to have a moist soil when they are in the process of germinating. When the days are warm they come up quicker than when the days are cold, but read the packages for the germination times as they will give you the average number of days they will need in order to sprout.

By direct sowing into the garden, you can get numerous plants all within one package of seeds for a fraction of the cost of transplants. Many of them will grow quickly and begin producing their first blooms within about 30 days of planting.

This year, think about the plants you are buying for the garden, and if many of the plants are the simple items you can grow from seed. Try an area in the garden where you just do the seed route and see how it works for you. To put this in perspective, let’s say you wanted a flat of orange marigolds to put into the garden. If you bought an average flat at the nursery, you would pay about $24 to $28 for a total of 48 plants. To direct seed the same amount from a package of seeds, you would spend around $2 to $3. In many cases, some of the common seeds can be bought as cheap as 20 cents per package making them extremely cost effective.

Spring time can be expensive in the gardening world as all things need to be planted around the same time after the last frost to enjoy their full potential during the growing season. See where you can use cost-saving measures to make your gardening experience a little less expensive and just as enjoyable. Growing many of your own plants from seed can also be very rewarding — you know you were self-sufficient enough to succeed at the process. After all, isn’t part of gardening to allow a periodic challenge to feel good about your successes?? Let’s get seeding!