Frugal Seed Starting Tips

Photo by jean froidevaux

Photo by jean froidevaux

One of the biggest expenses in seed starting are the supplies you need to get started.  If you try to cut expenses in the wrong area, you could have disastrous results.  So here are some frugal seed starting tips to get your green growing in the right direction.

  • Don’t skimp on the quality of soil you use to start your seeds.  Choose a sterile seed starter mix from your local garden center.  These mixes are usually a combination of vermiculite and peat moss, and provide good drainage as well as proper moisture retention.  If you choose to try to go cheap on this supply, you may just be wasting your time and efforts as your results may not be fruitful.
  • Do choose a place that provides lots of light for your seedlings to grow.  If you have a south-facing window, this works well.  However, using artificial lighting will be even better.  Hang your grow lights over the shelf or table that you will use to grow your seedlings.  This doesn’t need to be expensive.  You can use a shop light from the hardware store.  Special growing bulbs are available, but are not necessary.
  • Containers are where you can save the most money.  Although the special seed trays and peat containers are nice, they can be expensive.  So feel free to use something else, such as styrofoam or paper cups for individual plants. We like to use the paper bathroom cups.  If you choose to use the 3 oz cups, understand that these are great for starting your seeds, but you might need to transplant up to a larger container as they grow.  The 5 oz kitchen cups are perhaps a little nicer, allowing for adequate root development and you probably won’t have to transplant before putting them outside.  You will want to be sure to place a drainhole in the bottom of the cup so that the roots don’t drown and rot.

If you don’t want to start your seeds in separate containers at the beginning, you can use a plastic ice cream bucket.  You will need to cut drainage holes in the bottom of the bucket.  Fill the bucket about 1/3 full of seed starting mix and plant the seeds.  Water and then snap the lid of the bucket in place.  Place the bucket in a warm spot that is out of direct sunlight.  If condensation forms, then vent the bucket.  You will have seedlings ready to transplant in about 10 days.

One of our favorite ways to start seeds is to plant them in eggshells.  To do this, you will want to carefully crack the eggs in half next time you use them.  Rinse out the egg residue, and poke a drainage hole in the bottom of each half of the shell.  Fill the shells with seed starting mix and then plant your seeds.  When the seedlings are ready to be transplanted, gently crush the eggshell with your fingers and plant them, eggshell and all.  The shell will actually improve your soil as is decomposes.

What are some frugal seed starting tips that you have found for your garden?

How to Choose Seeds

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When choosing seeds for the garden, it is important to remember that what you purchase is what you will get.  If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is and you should look elsewhere for your seeds.  So how do you know if what you are purchasing is truly what you want?  That is a great question and here are some tips to help you know how to choose the best seeds.

  • Remember to invest in quality, rather than quantity.  Seeds of a higher quality will give you the best results.  Often cheap seeds are available in greater quantities.  But remember that they are just that–cheap seeds.  Higher quality seeds may cost more initially, but will give you more for your investment.
  • Only purchase seeds that have been packaged for the current growing season.  If you are looking at seeds that were packaged for a previous growing season, have they been tested within the past 6 months?  If this information is not readily available on the seed packet, then do not buy it.  Look for another brand of seed that does list this information instead.
  • Choose seeds that match your needs.  Most seed packages include information on starting dates, germination times and growing conditions.  Know what your needs are.  If you live in place that has a colder climate, understand that you will not be able to effectively grow a plant that requires tropical conditions.
  • Check for the germination percentage.  The higher the percentage number, the more likely that the seeds will sprout and grow.  Choose seeds that provide this information to you.  Keep in mind that some seeds are more difficult to start than others.  But a higher germination percentage will equal greater success.

Now that you know what to look for when purchasing your seeds, what are you planning to grow in your garden this year?  We would love to hear what you are interested in growing.