Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Getting started with plant starts

The last three years I've gone way out of my way to pretty much start all my vegetable plants from seed. The only exception was tomato plants since I never seemed to get my act together in time (although one could argue that tomatoes are fruits so they don't count).

Anyway, the results have been very mixed with, I hate to admit, less than stellar results. I'm sure a lot of it is just due to my ineptitude, but I think a lot has to do with the fact that we have such weird seasons with it being cold late and then hot with everything bolting. The only things that have been successful have been plant and herb starts that I bought on a whim or out of desperation.

This year I think I'm going to try something different and use more starts just to compare. And, well, out of laziness. It certainly is a heck of a lot more pricey to buy plant starts rather than seeds, but since I've had such poor results from seed starting I figure, in the end, maybe I'll come out ahead since I'll actually have something to show for it.

And, perhaps, by the end of the season the results will be the same and I'll know next year just to stick with the seeds and save myself some money. I've already begun with some spicy lettuce mix and broccoli plants. This weekend I'll get my butt in gear and plant my potatoes and onion sets. And I'll go pick up some plants and jump start my crops.

What about you? Do you start from seed or do you buy plant starts?

46 comments:

Robj98168 said...

This year is a return to staring (tomato) plants. I am having mixed results with the southern exposure windows I added. I am also using some plants from starts.

Anonymous said...

Eh, we always used seeds, with mixed results. Strangely enough, ALL the stuff that is touted as being super hard to grow (eggplant etc.) always worked out and the stuff that is easy (lettuce) never worked out. I have never been able to grow lettuce. This year I have a small baby and am just going to go buy some plants.

knutty knitter said...

Sort of half and half. I buy tomato plants and lettuce plants and sometimes cheap vege mixes from the local shop where they are very cheap because they grow their own. The rest are seeds. Most of this is because I just don't have the indoor space to start stuff.

viv in nz

selina said...

i started some broccoli, cauliflower & brussels seeds in late Feb. but they dont seem to be growing very fast.
i was gonna to start everything else by seed but laziness won & i didnt start anything else & now its too late, so plants it is. plus i dont really have enough room to have all these starts around.
last year i tried starting lots of things by seed & i didn't have good results then either.
there is a local greenhouse nearby so i think maybe i'll just forget about starting most things from seed & buy plant starts from her. :)
soem things like lettuce, bok choy, choy sum & arugula i'll just direct sow into the ground.

ehmeelu said...

I tried saving some seed from a bunch of interesting heirloom tomatoes someone gave me to eat last fall. To my delight the seeds came up in only two or three days! So now my windowsills are full of tomatoes in every conceivable container - I'll be giving quite a few away because I don't have much space to garden. I also started eggplant, some tiny purple hot peppers, Thai basil, thyme, and marigolds. Only three weeks to go before they can all live outside (my cat will be happy to have the windowsills back)!

Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

I use parsley, pepper and tomato transplants, with everything else from seeds. Sometimes I just let lettuce, cilantro and basil go to seed and then spring up where it wants to next year. If certain kinds of seedlings (like zuchinni)get eaten by a bird I might buy a transplant to replace it.

Heather @ SGF said...

I've had better luck starting from seeds (other than, like you, with the tomato plants). But we have LOTS of warm weather here so we have long growing seasons. The only thing I've gotten to transplant well is green peppers and cabbage.

That's fine with me, though. It's SO much cheaper to work from seed

Anonymous said...

Last year I started several of my tomatoes from seed. This year I tried, but when I put them out for an afternoon of sun the sparrows ate them.

I am having success with corn, lettuces, and sunflowers and so far with the transplanted pumpkins that were sprouting in my worm bin.

kidk4m said...

Last year we planted a mixture of plants we bought from the health food store and seeds.

This year I started my own plants in the basement (broccoli & tomatoes). The broccoli can be transplanted outside in about a week (we live in northern VT). Last frost date is May 15th for where I live.

I was at the health food store yesterday where they had plants for sale. My broccoli is certainly not as far along as the ones that were for sale-made me wish I had started mine earlier. Oh well.

Lettuce and spinach was planted outside-a couple weeks ago-and they are just starting to break through the soil.

I'm keeping notes to compare how this year turns out vs last year.

Cindi

Billie said...

we have a balcony and I admit that I have only tried to do tomatoes - from starters.

Last year, I had a hard time remembering to water the plants because I was so busy and just about killed them. We got some tomatoes from the plants but they weren't very successful.

This year I have remembered to water them every day (needed) and they are doing much better.

I hope to have a bit bigger planting area next year so I might use seeds to start.

Kelsie said...

I started everything from seed this year--tomatoes, eggplants, squashes, melons, cukes, lettuce, carrots, beans, peas, herbs, and flowers....EXCEPT...

I couldn't get my peppers to sprout. The first round was a total failure.
The second round, I finally got six peppers to sprout, but they're still so tiny, I finally sucked it up and went out and bought 10 peppers starts. C'est la vie!

Oddly enough, the hot peppers sprouted/grew fine. It was just the sweet peppers that didn't want to take. It think my house was probably just too c-c-cold for them.

Niecey said...

This is my first year starting from seed and so far my seedlings look at least as good as the plants from the nursery. I'm using a grow light, so I'm sure that helps.

Anna M said...

I'm doing seed starts but I have a dedicated rack for it with lights for every shelf. I really thing having 14 hours a day of direct light is necessary.

I'm direct seeding peas, carrots, beets, kale, lettuce, radish, onions and a few other things and have started the first wave. I'm in Northern VT right at the border so I might be pushing my luck but hope not.

risa said...

Like with Anon., easy stuff hard for us, hard stuff easy. My peepers handily survived a disaster that ruined a lot of my tomatoes. And things that one direct seeds in the cool weather haven't dome well this year, so that I direct visitors to admire all our perennials, trees, vines and over-winters instead: "Just LOOK at the elephant garlic! Isn't the KALE gorgeous! And SEE how the rhubarb is coming along ... no ... NO. Don't go over there where the beets and chard never came up ... how do you like my NEW QUINCES?"

It's ... tiresome, losing one's green thumb like this.

Amber said...

In the past I have bought plant starts, I've been sort of unsuccessful with seeds. But this year I'm doing seeds for everything except tomatoes. My plan with the tomatoes is to learn about seed saving and do those myself next year. So it might be expensive to buy some tomato plants, but then theoretically I should be in tomatoes forever.

We'll see how it actually goes, but I'm feeling optimistic right now.

Carrick said...

I haven't started to garden yet. :( I know, I know. Not having land to garden on regularly isn't helping. I've gotten cuttings of house plants, and am not even tending to them properly. :P

A propos of nothing, am I the only one looking forward to the next challenge...? What's next, another round of Keep Yer Cool? That's gonna be a nice and tough one for me...

Live Simply Love Strongly said...

I tried to start some of my own tomatoes, basil, and peppers. So far, not many sprouts. I don't know what happenned. Looks like I may be buying some starts.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

I have had the best luck with starting my own. The secret seems to be getting good quality seed in the first place. Look for seed companies that cater to market to farmers. According to Steve Solomon most seed racks carry old seed, hence the low germination rates.

I had astonishing luck with some 14 year old mizuna seed this year that I had originally purchased from Johnny's. Don't ask why I have 14 year old seed lurking in my seed box :)

scifichick said...

This is the first year planting for us, so we have nothing to compare with. We have started everything from seeds. By everything, I just mean tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs. It's all indoors since we don't have outdoors space. Tomatoes and herbs seem to be doing OK, but lettuce looks a little strange. Hopefully, it will all be fine, I'm optimistic :)

anisaschell said...

We do a combination. Each year we try to start more seeds, but the things we always buy as plants are tomoates and peppers. Our growing season here is way too short to start them outside, and I'm not very good with starts inside.

We've done well with the cold weather stuff starting early outside: peas, spinach, lettuce, onions, carrots, radishes, etc. And cucumbers and squash always are fine from seed outdoors here as well.

Rosa said...

I start stuff from seed, and I've always been successful with it - I have to start EARLY, like in mid-March, to extend our growing season for tomatos.

I've always had pretty good success with the seedlings, and give a lot away, and then buy stuff on a whim once the starts are out at teh garden store anyway.

This year is my first year of starting seeds with no artificial lights - instead of inside in the basement i started them in our three-season porch with warmth-loving things brought indoors when it was below freezing overnight. Things are doing pretty well.

I buy my seeds from Seed Savers Exchange, and this year I'm going to try to save seeds, too.

Last year I totally failed, because we went on vacation when it was time to start the seeds and then when I got back I kept forgetting to water them - so aside from saving energy, starting them on the porch made me remember to water them isntead of hiding them in the basement.

Lori said...

Like most, I use both. For some reason I just can't seem to start greens from seed, so I buy those. Ditto for tomatoes and peppers. I do have squash and melons sitting under the bulbs right now, so we'll see how that goes. I have planted beans, peas, a few herbs, and root veggies (all directly sown)from seed.

Green Bean said...

I too have trouble starting from seeds for a lot of plants. Pumpkins ok, beans, ok, and so on. Tomatoes, not so much. Neither for lettuce and a few other things. It is more expensive and less environmentally friendly (think black plastic nursery pots) to use starts but still, I tell myself, better than nothing. I am at least growing something. :)

Farmer's Daughter said...

I've had more success when I direct seed rather than start seeds indoors. I don't have grow lights, and I'm pretty sure it's because they don't get enough light inside. I held off on starting tomatoes this year until recently, but I bring them in and out to get natural light instead of leaving them in the house. I'm hoping it will work better that way.

I haven't seen a big variety of starts for tomatoes around here, which is why I start from seeds.

And FYI, from the botany teacher, anything with seeds is a fruit. Roots, stems and leaves are the veggies; peppers, eggplant, beans, pea pods... all fruit.

Sharlene said...

I am all about plant starts. I never seem to get on the ball early enough to do seeds. Plus I'm lazy.

Notwasted said...

all seeds.
I've walked by a couple of tomato starts and been unbelievably tempted but after the past 3 years of tomato failure I have simply resigned myself to buying the stupid things.

Robj98168 said...

My suggestion for you is: Less chocolate eating time more gardening time. Although I do love chocolate. Can't blame you.

Rosa said...

I forgot to mention, I'm growing zucchinis for the umpteenth time and for some reason I planted them UPSIDE DOWN. I don't know how I avoided this in the past because I never noticed the seeds have a top and bottom.

But the roots sprouted up into the air and then sort of grew horizontally trying to get back down. My son looked over one day and said "are those dead?" We turned them rightside-up and they're doing fine now.

Tina said...

Well, how is this for utter and complete laziness; several seasons ago we purchased plantings of tomato, (2 varieties), eggplant, peppers (several varieties), basil (2 varieties), and other assorted veggies, fruits and herbs...and lastly we took some "past prime" leeks from the grocery store and jammed those in the ground as well. And we never did another thing and its been about two years. We let everything reseed itself and the garden is a jungle, but produces massive amounts of food, and we literally do nothing. It is watered automatically and we live in Phoenix so it has tons of sun all year long. The whole thing DOES go dormant in the summer though; as soon as the nights go above 90 the the tomatoes and the peppers stop bearing until the nights get cooler. I have seriously considered starting to can tomatoes so we can have them in the summer.

Anonymous said...

I grow from seed and also work hard to support local nurseries that are doing 'professional' starts. I have donated thousands of my own vegetable starts to places such as: FOOD BANKS....!!! This year, I will donate vegetable starts to a local community garden...

But... I still like to support local nurseries that produce vegetable starts, because they are capable of producing greater volumes of starts for the general population that do not have green thumbs, or may be pretty busy working at the Emergency Rooms on the grave yard shift. Nurseries are highly efficient in their time allocation, which then allows us to spend more time writing, or educating about such vital topics such as chocolate, and or H1N1 viruses.

And yes, the best is still direct seeding rather than transferring from small containers.

eatclosetohome said...

I don't start anything from seed that needs to be started indoors. I just don't have the patience to fight Mother Nature and get things ready way ahead of their season. But that just means I buy tomatoes, peppers, and sometimes basil. Everything else gets direct-seeded in the garden and does just fine.

Lisa Sharp said...

Yeah I'm not sure how well I'm going to do this year. I didn't have anywhere to start my seeds so I just put them in my garden. We are way past any chance for freezing but it flooded so we will see what happens. This is my year to test things out.

Emily said...

Great job with your seedlings. I started many seeds this year in hopes of a from-seed started garden. However, we took a weeks vacation and had a 16year old neighbor water the seedlings and feed the cat. ...well the cat is still alive but somehow all of my seedlings are dried up (like they had been ignored for 2-3 days! I am guessing they are dead but I am trying to rehydrate them with the chance that they might come back. Looks like I will be buying plants from the garden center!
I need a couple of days to cool off before paying her...

Chard Lady said...

I prefer transplants to direct seeding since it is easier for me to control pests, temperature and water. I grow only from seeds, cuttings and overwintering. I try to grow plenty of extras for my friends and trading partners, and in case I run into trouble.

Anonymous said...

I grow most vegetables from seed. I start my tomatoes and peppers around April 1st. I place a flat on top of the refrigerator (for warmth) until they sprout. then move them into the basement and set them under a regular florescent light set uphooked to a timer- 18hr on/ 8 hr off. Last year I bought a $20 heat mat and the peppers are growing much better with the heat. My tomatos are about My tomatoes are 5-6" tall and the peppers are 3-4" tall right now so they should be perfect to plant out in a few weeks.

I suggest planting lettuce and spinach, arugula and broc. raab seed in the fall. They'll come up in the spring when they're ready! Remember that lettuce seed needs light to germinate. If you let these crops go to seed yo'll probably not need to plant them again.

Basil- I'd wait until June 1st and direct seed in the garden, if planted to early they'll be stunted and never catch up.

diana

Lyanda/The Tangled Nest said...

I'm for no-guilt gardening. We grow a bunch of things from seeds, and mingle with starts as whim or convenience (or laziness!) strike. With Seattle's short tomato-growing season, I am always more than happy to let the nice man at the farmer's market take care of my tomatoes at his Okanogan Valley farm until at least mid-May! Happy gardening everyone.

m3missy said...

Crunchy, I sure wish I could safely ship you some of our tomato starts! We went way out of control with the seed germination this year! My partner is a master at seed germination but it's my first year, since I'm from the south and we just plant the seeds right in the ground with the long growing season. I had a tough time with germinating flowers for some reason (our guess is that they don't need as much heat as veggies and we might have fried them) but after a couple tries we've gotten some to sprout.

In Ohio this year, peas took forever to sprout and lettuce too. The weather was very unpredictable and thus the delay, we think....

As for buying starts for the garden, we try to do as little of that as possible. I did buy my herbs, since it's my first year here but they should come back. I also bought cabbage starts too since our older cabbage seeds didn't germinate. Other than that, seeds have done us well this year. I don't think we could afford to garden with all starts, just way too expensive!

I must say though, since it was my first year started all my seeds for out new and improved large garden/small farm plot, it takes a ton of energy physical, mental along with electricity with the lights and heat pads. It also took lots of space too. So I can understand why some people can't do this in colder regions. But on the upside, we have a super start on the season with huge tomato, squash, cucumber, cantelope, pumpkin, watermelon, eggplant, pepper, basil...plants! Yea spring!

Happy gardening!

Jessica said...

I buy plant starts. I don't have a lot of room to start from seed yet but I hope to soon!

Oldnovice said...

Too cute:

"Strangely enough, ALL the stuff that is touted as being super hard to grow (eggplant etc.) always worked out and the stuff that is easy (lettuce) never worked out. I have never been able to grow lettuce. This year I have a small baby and am just going to go buy some plants."

I have lettuce and turnip greens (all planted outside from seed) that I've been using in salads for the past two weeks, but I couldn't get an eggplant seed to start.

I see no reason to be purist on it all and have both Home Depot "starts" in my garden as well as heirloom seed-started numbers (all doing well as of this date, BTW).

Most of one garden plot consists of volunteers. I'd thought (for a long while) that the volunteers were cucumbers and/or cantelope, but the plants are now looking more like zuccini or summer squash. These are growing like crazy already as are the HD tomatoes and peppers.

This is my first year growing asparagus and rhubarb, as well as strawberries and a number of fruit bushes. I look forward to actually EATING this stuff.

LatigoLiz said...

My wonderful cucumber starts didn’t harden off...they mostly died! I am going to restart seeds again. might get something acceptable, might not. Most of the tomatoes are limping along, but not out of the woods yet.

Going Green Mama said...

We mostly cheat and use starts, except for lettuce, onions and beans. We'll see. So far the starts are losing. In 24 hrs we've lost (literally, they are GONE) two squash plants and a tomato plant.

Green Fundraising said...

I'm learning to garden. I joined a yahoo group from ladies in my area that garden. That seems to be a debate each has within themselves all the time. Most agree that it is much more satisfying to start from the seed. That way you know your plant is healthy and won't disturb your other plants with disease, etc.

I am a novice though -

Toiling Ant said...

I used both seed and plants this year, and yes, the tomato plants I bought at the farmer's market are doing much better and are lots sturdier than the ones I started from seed.

Audra, Green Meadow Lane said...

We're starting our first garden this year. Wish us luck!

wonkydonkey said...

Hooray for spring in Seattle! Rainy today is good for the wee sprouts in my garden. I bought six cauliflower starts, and ONE tomato start so I can harvest something in July; everything else went in as seed ('cept the taters, which went in as, well, taters...)

I didn't get my seeds started early enough so most of my plants are still very small (hence the tomato start) - but they are growing. Everything has sprouted: lettuce, radishes, carrots, peas, beans, basil, pumpkin, taters, chives, onions, garlic, zucchini, eggplant, leeks, and the tomatoes (which likely won't fruit until September). All of my seeds are heirloom or local varieties (no hybrids here!)

Next year: I will get my arse in gear in January. Promise.

Chervil said...

I have started growing seedlings from seed in large styrofoam boxes which I then plant out into the garden. That seems to work really well - the seedlings get a good start in the protected environment of the box (they are sheltered from wind and don't dry out so easily), and it means I can space the seedlings properly. Kind of the best of both worlds...

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